Am I afforded to be better: Cultural capital

Can you name a constant in your life? — In my life, it is solving problems. Quite fitting for a blogger consistently vouching for the importance of making everything better and solid for yourself.

Despite me, it is quite fitting for this notion to apply to you, too. Because what you are is in relation to problems you are faced up with.

The same way a hungry person will not care to invest their last cents over buying food. Because despite the self-help bandwagon, survival dictates we prioritize immediate tangible needs and solutions before going deep into the profoundly recommended transcendence.

Privileged mentality

I am writing this because I am thinking about how it is sometimes self-involved to ask people to figure things out — To expect people to defy their everyday normalcy when they don’t have the privilege to.

I am thinking about how holding an opinion is a privilege. How a world of opinions is sponsored by possibilities.

That we are afforded to fathom some realities and hold certain opinions because our lives and point of perspective allows us to.

Does this make subjectivity a bad thing? — Yes, no, maybe. It comes down to your opinion.

I see the ability to think in certain ways; hold certain understandings; see certain possibilities — Not because of your inborn critical thinking capacity, but because you were born into an environment that allows you to think beyond what is immediate to you as a privilege.

Human capital in society

Studying Social Psychology, I learned about cultural capital.

According to a French Sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, social life and positions we hold in the societal hierarchy are influenced by cultural capital. Essentially, the more cultural capital one has (see below), the higher their social position in life.

1. Habitus capital

Habitus capital is the disposition an individual has for certain things because of their environment, life experiences, and innate qualities.

Think intellect, skills, behaviour, strength, advantages, knowledge, etc. The environment you grow up in nurtures these qualities. And the extent to which we nurture them influences how you manoeuvre life circumstances.

In this sense, habitus is created and reproduced unconsciously, ‘with no deliberate pursuit of coherence… with no conscious concentration“. 

– Ibid: 170

2. Embodied capital

Embodied capital is knowledge, perceptions and abilities we come to possess through long-term socialization. Over time, we come to inherit and embody certain knowledge, perceptions and abilities because we were socialized to.

For example, someone who grew up in a musical family is more likely to inhold music knowledge.

3. Objectified capital

Objectified capital is property an individual owns. This property can be transmitted into economic profit or be a symbol of cultural capital.

Examples: books, owning art, designer clothes, technological gadgets, the type of food you consume, etc.

4. Institutionalized capital

Institutionalized capital is a type of capital we can rank and measure. An institution usually issues the rank.

A great example is a degree earned from a tertiary institution.

Cultural capital

Together Habitus, embodied, objectified and institutionalized capital make up what we call cultural capital.

By definition, Cultural capital is social assets possessed by an individual. Together, these assets propel people’s lives forward, and they maintain hierarchical positions in society.

Again, your environment plays a huge role in equipping you with cultural capital. This extends to your family, friends, schools you attend, places you have access to, etc.

Cultural capital is what we exchange and used to negotiate ourselves in the social strata. Your cultural capital confers you with social status and power within society.

Essentially, the Cultural capital theory assets that the simple matter of what you are born into and what you are raised around is enough leverage to land you in a head start position in life.

Just like someone growing up with access to digital gadgets is likely to have the digital proficiency tertiary education requires compared to someone who is not.

Individual prosperity

Given this, prosperity is more systematic than it is an individual thing. And of course, not that you do not have a say over your success. This is to acknowledge factors working for you and against you.

To acknowledge that chance is written somewhere in the sky. It does not always apply to everyone’s fate, but it is. It is written in history. It is written in social ideologies, discourses and theories that blame poor people for being poor. It is written in lack of access and systematic poverty.

This makes you judging people for being poor and failing kid of an asshole. Spewing opinions about people’s lives from a high horse without taking time to consider the difference between your position and theirs should not be a thing.

A big but..

But, even after this mouthful, I want to say to you can afford to be better. You are you. And in a society that defines access symbolically, being yourself is a superpower.

It’s difficult when the system is stacked against you, but dreams are possible. They do come true.

And yes, you are afforded to be better.

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