chapter  12
34 Pages

Arts Participation as Cultural Capital in the United States, 1982–2002: Signs of Decline?

In The Inheritors (1979) and Reproduction in Education (1977),Pierre Bourdieu made the inuential argument that in the modern economy, where the publicly held corporation had succeeded the industrial magnate’s empire, a new mode of class reproduction based on formal education had replaced the old mechanism of direct inheritance. According to Bourdieu, members of the “dominant class” invested in their children’s “cultural capital”—an easy familiarity with prestigious forms of culture-as a means of ensuring their success. Bourdieu argued that teachers and other gatekeepers interpreted “cultural capital” as a sign of grace, indicating that a child was gifted and worthy of attention and cultivation. Students with the proper cultural socialization, then, would excel in primary school, be admitted to the most selective institutions of higher education (which increasingly controlled access to the best opportunities), and ultimately succeed in reproducing their parents’ elite status. In his empirical work, Bourdieu mustered much evidence

of high levels of class reproduction in France, as well as strong associations among family socioeconomic status, educational achievement and attainment, and cultural practices and tastes (Bourdieu 1984; Bourdieu and Passeron 1977, 1979).