The Cultural Capital of Cultural and Social Capital: An Economy of Translations Chapter uri icon


  • Scholars of higher education in the United States have embraced the theories of cultural and social capital. Bourdieus writing illuminates our understanding of social structures that limit opportunity for oppressed groups but is sometimes mistranslated as a theory of social mobility. We argue that the translation of his theory of classes into one of individuals obscures the ways class structures get formed and re-formed in the United States, and how individuals, while not determined by such structures, are constrained by them. We summarize James Colemans articulation of social capital, and speculate whether Colemans theory grounds the uses of the theory of cultural and social capital in the United States as a theory of individual mobility. Colemans theory errs in emphasizing individual agency while ignoring the covert and natural functioning of oppressive structures. We critique Bourdieus theory as being too deterministic; a good misappropriation of Bourdieu makes room for some form of agency.

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Musoba, G., & Baez, B.

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Musoba, Glenda||Baez, Benjamin

editor list (cited editors)

  • Smart, J. C.

Book Title

  • Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research

publication date

  • January 1, 2009 11:11 AM