Forms of Capital
Pierre Bourdieu explained the three forms of capital that exist in society. To understand what these are, one has to understand what capital is first though. Capital, as Bourdieu (1983) defined it, is accumulated labor in its material or embodied form. In other words, capital is gained by the people through work and it can either be in its materialized form, which encompasses tangible things that are easily transferrable. Or, it can be in its embodied form, which are things that are a part of a person, like skills, abilities, etc., those which are not easily transferrable. Either kinds of accumulated labor are things that are attained by a person either through hard work or by knowledge that is instilled in a person ever since birth. Therefore, obtaining capital is not something that happens overnight, it is something that takes time and at times takes effort to obtain. Once capital is obtained, it is something that can be convertible into money.
The three forms of capital Bourdieu talks about are: economic, cultural and social. Economic being the major form of capital, it is capital that is directly convertible into money. This form can be seen as a person’s tangible things like property rights. Cultural capital is less directly convertible into money, but it is still convertible and it is established through education. Social capital is sometimes convertible into money, and it is about a person’s network or status in society. Every person in society has obtained at least one form of capital in their lives. However, those that manage to work the hardest in their lives, are those who are most successful in obtaining all forms of capital.
There are various persons that can come to mind who have worked very hard. One of them is Bill Gates, the magnate, who invented Microsoft. Bill Gates began working with the programming of computers since he was young (Bellis 2014). He attended Harvard and before graduating in 1975, left to begin his Microsoft programming invention. In the year 1983, his finished product was announced and put on the market. As we can see, it took time for him to obtain his capital. However, he got it after much dedicated work that he put on it. Thus, his accumulated labor as Bourdieu puts it, majorly came in an economic form of capital because as the product was put on the market, he earned a lot of money. Also, as Bourdieu explained, economic form of capital is the root of all other capitals. Because Gates’ creation was a success and produced a lot of money, it made him become a very well-known figure in society. Therefore, he obtained social capital as well because of his creation. He also obtained cultural capital even though he didn’t graduate from Harvard, because pushing himself to invent the computer programming was good enough to prove that he had the brains. In other words, he didn’t need a diploma, or institutionalized cultural capital to prove that he was intelligent, he obtained his cultural capital just by demonstrating his finished product to the people. It was through the embodied form of cultural capital as Bourdieu explains or the knowledge he had gained throughout his young life, that he was able to be recognized as being an intelligent person in society.
Another person who has worked hard and succeeded in gaining his capital is President Barack Obama. He finished off college and then was able to graduate from Columbia University. After this, he went to law school and then went back to Chicago, where he was an active member of his community (The White House). His continuous public service work later helped him win presidency in 2008. As a result of his hard work then, of finishing off school and becoming a very active community activist, he gained cultural and social capital. Through his school diplomas, he was able to be recognized as an educated person. Thus, the public service he provided made him become recognized enough to become president. The social capital he gained after becoming president though, made him worth even more. Through this accomplishment, these forms of capital made were convertible into money.
Capital, as Bourdieu stated is accumulated labor. However, capital comes in three forms: economic, cultural and social. People obtain capital over time and the harder they work for it, the more successful they are at it. Hence, there are various persons who are very well recognized in society because of their success in obtaining such.
· Bellis, Mary. 2014. Bill Gates-Biography and History. About. Retrieved March 30, 2014 http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventors/a/Bill_Gates.htm.
· Bourdieu, Pierre. 1983. The Forms of Cultural Capital. Transmission and Reproduction.
· The White House. President Barack Obama. The Administration. Retrieved March 30, 2014. http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-obama.