Should We Continue to Describe Culture as Capital? An Austrian Perspective
Kultura Współczesna, 1 (55) 2008
Posted: 8 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2008
The dominant model of exchange between economists and our cousins in the other social sciences is export. We seldom learn or even try to learn from our compatriots. We peddle our analysis (of everything from the virtuous to the profane), our methods (too often borrowed from the natural sciences) and our concepts (think of notions like social capital, the economy of nature, etc.), assured that everyone else has much to learn from us. In some areas we do, indeed, have a lot to offer. I wonder, however, if the exchange between cultural studies and capital theory has benefited either trading partner. The belief that we can profitably think of culture as if it is capital, in my opinion, does not do justice to either capital or culture. Section II outlines what cultural theorists and economists mean by the concept of cultural capital. Section III, then, argues that notions of cultural capital are built on mistaken views of both capital (and its essential characteristics) and culture (and its significance). Culture properly conceived is not just a resource and capital correctly understood is not anything more than just a resource used in production. Section IV, thus, proposes that we jettison the cultural capital language; in my opinion, culture is much more like a constitution, a context where social interactions occur, than it is like a tool, which can be used and put away. Section V summarizes these results.
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