This is the third of five volumes based on the lectures given by Pierre Bourdieu at the Collège de France in the early 1980s under the title ‘General Sociology’. In these lectures, Bourdieu sets out to define and defend sociology as an intellectual discipline, and in doing so he introduces and clarifies all the key concepts which have come to define his distinctive intellectual approach.
In this volume, Bourdieu focuses on one of his key concepts – capital. This is the third concept in the trilogy of concepts – habitus, capital, field – that define the core of his theoretical approach. A field, as a social space of relatively durable relations between agents and institutions, is also a site of specific investments, which presupposes the possession of specific forms of capital and secures both material and symbolic profits. While there are many different forms of capital, there are two forms that are fundamental and effective in all social fields: economic capital and cultural capital. These and other forms of capital exist only in relation to the fields in which they are deployed: their distribution constitutes the structure of the field within which agents act and they confer power over the field, over the mechanisms that define the functioning of the field and over the profits engendered in the field – over, for example, the transmission of cultural capital in the educational system.
An ideal introduction to one of Bourdieu’s most important concepts, this volume will be of great interest to the many students and scholars who study and use Bourdieu’s work across the social sciences and humanities, and to general readers who want to know more about the work of one of the most important sociologists and social thinkers of the 20th century.