Economic, Cultural and Social Capital


There have been a number of ways of the generations to define and classify class. In many cases, it can be related to a hereditary position or inherited/generated wealth. However, wealth and title rarely nowadays give a clear definition of social position. Does a lottery winner suddenly become Upper Class or Elite simply because or new found wealth ? Most people would argue not.

To create a better picture, social classes can be structured via elements of Economic, Cultural and Social 'Capital' (Marx would be proud). By considering all three elements rather than just money or just social position, a clearer definition of class is the aim.

Economic Capital

For the purposes of this argument, we will define Economic Capital as disposable wealth regardless of source. This is not the usual position and many would consider all assets to be included under Economic Capital but it's not that easy.

Economic Capital

Firstly, let's consider someone who inherits with an inherited castle or stately country home. All very grand but if no cash is also inherited then that person would be asset rich but cash poor. In general terms, it could be argued that they have substantial Economic Capital but if they can't afford to eat because they have no cash then that's not a very good situation. To create cash, the asset would be sold and then they would have Economic Capital and can spend but that's not always possible.

We appreciate that this is simple but in modern society surely real Economic Capital is what you can buy not what you have. We are a consumer society and having last year's handbag just doesn't cut it. Cash is king and spending it is genuine Economic Capital.

In short, therefore, disposable cash is, we would consider, a better definition of modern day Economic Capital than cash and assets.

Social Capital

This is generally defined as the quantity and social status of friends, family and other connections. At a simple level, knowing a judge would boost Social Capital better than knowing a window cleaner.

Social Capital

Again, it's not as clear cut with the advent of social media. The number of people with the magic '500+' connnections on LinkedIn or hundreds of 'friends' on Facebook would, under a simplistic definition, all boost Social Capital. However, clearly, that's unlikely to be the case and in reality only a minor handful of those contacts actually mean anything.

With this in mind, it's better to consider the quantity, social status and quality of the connection. More so, it's not so much how well that contact is known but perhaps how easy it is to leverage that contact.

Cultural Capital

Let's define this as the sum of both your cultural 'assets' and your cultural 'income'. To be clear, Cultural Assets are things already known - such as the names of the families in Romeo and Juliet. Cultural Income is going to see the latest production of Romeo and Juliet. We know, we defined Economic Capital as only consisting of Income or more correctly disposable income. However, we consider the definition of Cultural Capital to be better defined with both asset and income. Sorry.

Cultural Capital
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