Cultural Capital

From Marx to Bourdieu

English 571
Spring 1997, Thursdays 12:00-3:00 Bennett 328
Instructor: Jim English
Email: jenglish@english


Please read these announcements as they are posted:


You can go straight to: Schedule of Readings | Course Description | Electronic Resources | Texts | Participation Guidelines | Written Work Guidelines | Short Paper Schedule


This course is an attempt to consider some of the ways that the Marxist concepts of capital and class have been pressured by the notion of culture. More specifically, we will be looking at some of the recent attempts to theorize "cultural capital" and to understand the contemporary relation between the holders of this capital (the so-called "new class" of the postwar period) and the holders of primarily economic capital (the ruling class in traditional Marxist terms). After some preliminary readings to situate our concerns, we will read Marx on capital, followed by the classical sociologists Weber and Durkheim, with their broader notions of economy, capital, and class. We will then spend quite a few weeks reading the work of the French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose "general economy of practices" represents the most global and fully elaborated theory of art and culture currently available. Our readings in Bourdieu will, however, be supplemented by the work of some other recent theorists of culture, both Marxist and bourgeois, including Louis Althusser, Gary Becker, and John Guillory.

Written work for the course will include three very short (600-word) essays, one of which will be made available to the class in advance, as well as a longer essay of 12-16 pages.


All graduate students at Penn have email addresses; graduate students in English have addresses on the departmentĀs machine, If you do not know how to access your address and exchange electronic mail, please get the information you need from me or from any electronically literate member of the class.

Our course listserver, which automatically distributes mail to every member of the class, is now active. If you send a message to, your message will reach all of us. We will be using this listserver to distribute papers in advance of class, as well as to post changes and announcements that arise between class meetings. If you find that you are not receiving mail from the list, send a message to help at english-help@english.

All changes to the syllabus, as well as to the short paper schedule, will be made from this home page, so please look here, and not to the printed syllabus, for up to date information. The URL of this page is


Books for the course are available at House of Our Own book store on Spruce Street. These include: The course bulkpack of photocopied readings is available from Wharton Reprographics on the lower level of Steinberg-Deitrich Hall on Locust Walk. The bulkpack also includes a good bibliograpy of Bourdieu's writings and of related texts or commentaries, which you may find useful in preparing your papers.

Reserve Books are in the Rosengarten Reading Room in the basement of Van Pelt Library:


Although enrollment in this class may be fairly high, I would like to preserve a collaborative, seminar atmosphere as much as possible. this means that, except in unusual circumstances, I won't allow auditors. All members of the class will be expected to attend regularly, to read the student papers as well as the primary texts as they are assigned, and to participate actively in our discussions and debates. Such participation is, in my eyes, a more important part of your performance in the class than is the term paper you submit in December.


Students should choose three of our readings for special focus, and sign up to submit three short (600-word) papers on those texts. One paper should be designated for distribution to the class via listserver and WWW by the Tuesday morning before the corresponding class meeting. The other two should be submitted to me (electronically or in hard copy) by Wednesday morning before class. Sign-ups will be done at the first and second class meetings to assure a reasonably steady volume of incoming work throughout the term. But the sign-up schedule can be adjusted once the term is underway. Some tips on how to send a paper via email are available.

Your aim in these short papers should be to situate the chosen text in relation to the general problematic or topic that we are discussing at that point in the couse. Try to indicate the specific character of the text, describing its central thesis or preoccupation and its mode of presentation in such a way as to clarify its differences from other readingswe have done. And try, as well, to indicate what you regard as the main weakness of the text, the point at which one might begin to marshall a critique of it.

It is more important to submit these short papers on time, so that they can be incorporated into our seminar discussions, than to refine them to the point of perfection. Short papers that arrive after the class meeting will not be accepted. Likewise, the research papers you write for this course should be regarded as first attempts at a topic, not as quasi-publishable articles. The research papers can be rather short (12 pages is fine) as well as tentative in their conclusions; you can always rework them later, after getting some feedback from me. But please submit them by the beginning of exam week, as indicated on the schedule. I am disallowing incompletes for this course except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Additional Written Assignment, added 1/30: In addition to the three short papers that you write for this class, please write brief responses to three of the short papers that are posted to our listserve/website. Try to spread these out over the course of the semester, and do post them to the listserve by the Wed evening before class, so that the rest of us have a chance to read them before we discuss the materials for that week. One or two paragraphs is sufficient length for these responses, but try to make them lucid and specific; broadly impressionistic responses aren't nearly as helpful as more surgical ones.


                           1.  PRELIMINARIES

January 16:      Introduction to course.  Introductory discussion of
                    capital and cultural capital.  Sign up for short

January 23:      Intellectuals and the So-Called "New Class."  The
		    Distribution of Power Today. 
                       Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the
                          Rise of the New Class (distributed excerpts)

                        2.  FROM ECONOMISM TO THE ECONOMY
                                 OF PRACTICES

January 30:      Materialist economics, economism, and the critique
                    of bourgeois theories of capital.

                        Marx, Capital, Vol 1, chapters 1-8 (distributed                          
			  in class);
			Marx, Theses on Feurbach and The German Ideology 
                    	  (distributed in class).

February 6:      Anti-economism or radical economism?  the classical
                    sociological challenge to Marx.

	                Emile Durkheim, excerpts from Selected Writings
			Max Weber, excerpts from Economy and Society

February 13:     A general economy of practices.

                   	Bourdieu, "On Symbolic Power" in Language and
			  Symbolic Power (blkpk);
			Bourdieu, "Social Space and Symbolic Power" in In
			  Other Words;

			Bourdieu, "Book 1: Critique of Theoretical Reason"
			  in The Logic of Practice.


                            3. COMPONENTS OF THE ECONOMY OF 

February 20:     Capital, Class
                        Bourdieu, "Pathways," part I of In Other Words;

                        Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital" (blkpk);

                        Bourdieu, "Social Space and the Genesis of
			  Classes" from Language and Symbolic Power

February 27:     Field, Habitus, Interest, Strategy

                        Bourdieu, "The Interest of the Sociologist" in In
			  Other Words (pp. 87-93);
			Bourdieu, "A Reply to Some Objections" in In Other 
			  Words (pp. 106-19);
			Bourdieu, "The Logic of Fields" and "Interest,
			  Habitus, Rationality" (the Chicago Workshop),
			  from Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (blkpk).

                          4.  CULTURAL CAPITAL AND THE
                                STUDY OF LITERATURE

March 6:         The Literary Field

                  	Bourdieu, "Three States of the Field," part I of
			  Rules of Art (pp.47-176);

	                Bourdieu, "Da Capo: Illusio and Illusion" in Rules 
			  of Art (pp. 333-36);


March 20:        The Sociological Critique of the Aesthetic Disposition

                      	Kant, from Critique of Judgment (blkpk);

                      	Bourdieu, Postscript, Distinction (blkpk);

                      	Guillory, "The Discourse of Value" in Cultural
			  Capital (pp.269-340).

March 27:        Literary Critiism and Social Science

                      	Bourdieu, "Foundations of a Science of Works of
			  Art," part II of Rules of Art (pp. 177-284);

                   	Bourdieu, "The Intellectual Field, A World Apart"
		          in In Other Words (pp. 140-149).

                          5.  CULTURAL INHERITANCE, EDUCATION, 
April 3:         Schooling, Discipline, Calculation, and RAT

                      	Bourdieu, "A Book for Burning," and "Postscript"
                    	  to Homo Academicus (pp. 1-35, 194-226);

	          	Foucault, excerpts from Discipline and Punish
			Becker, excerpts from Human Capital (blkpk).

April 10:        The Educational Field vs. Educational ISAs

                      	Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, ch 2-4 (pp.36-158);

                      	Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State
			  Apparatuses" from Lenin and Philosophy and
			  Other Essays (blkpk).

April 17:        The Canon, the Star System, and the Journalistic Field

                      	Bourdieu, Appendix 3 to Homo Academicus (pp.

                      	Guillory, "Canonical and NonCanonical" in Cultural 
			  Capital (pp 3-84);

                      	Bourdieu, 'The Uses of the 'People'" in In Other 
			  Words (pp.150-55)

                        6.   CONCLUSIONS: FROM A SCIENCE OF
                           CULTURAL PRACTICES TO A STRATEGICS 
                                  OF CULTURAL ACTION

April 24:             Cultural Capital and the Radical Intellectual

                        Bourdieu and Haacke, Free Exchange