Bourdieu - The Theory of Cultural Reproduction

A Neo-marxist approach.

HideShow resource information


Bourdieu (1977), another Neo-Marxist, looked at the way in which schools in France helped the ruling elite reproduce social and economic inequalities. He examined how the ruling elite gain and maintain cultural advantages.

1 of 6

Cultural Capital

Through their families, children of the dominant class/middle class acquire 'cultural capital'/skills and style, that enable them to gain advantages from education. The middle class cultural learnt at home, is similar to the culture in education. Middle class children have been socialised into the right might manners, accent, confidence and 'know-how', that success in education demands. This is the same culture as the teachers who teach them. Middle class children have the right language skills [linguistic capital] to understand the information delivered in formal education. In contrast working class children are socialised into a different culture that does not give them a 'head start' in understanding formal education.

2 of 6


This simply means understanding the 'rules of the game', understanding the underlying rules/behaviour, that will lead to success.

3 of 6

Relative Autonomy

Schools support the ruling elite by appearing to be independent [relatively autonomous] of elite control, and appearing to have little connection with the economy, which makes schools appear neutral and fair/meritocratic. In reality, Bourdieu believes that education is benefiting the ruling elite by identifying and selecting those with the language and cultural skills that the ruling elite want reproduced. Bourdieu recognises, however, that some working-class children do understand middle class culture, developing middle class skills and ultimately succeed against the odds.

4 of 6

Plus Points

Shows the possibility that the relationship between education and work benefits the ruling elite.

Provides an explanation for the continuing underachievement of working class pupils.

5 of 6

Minus Points

Bourdieu has been criticised for the same reasons as Bowles and Gintis and Althusser.

Overemphasises the power of one culture, the ruling elite culture.

Assumes that the working classes passively accept their failure.

Lack of classroom based research to support the theory.

6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »