Symbolic capital in practice

Much of the discussion about symbolic capital focuses on the cultural and social capital that individuals or groups don’t have, and how this can explain behaviour, attitudes and achievement.  Because of this we often fall into the trap of defining symbolic capital in negative terms, or explaining it by setting out the consequences of it’s absence.  I was fortunate yesterday to stumble across an example of how cultural and symbolic capital functions within an elite group in a positive sense, to support the values of the group as a whole and give advantage to it’s members individually.  The quotation below is from Nigel Nicolson, former MP and son of Vita Sackville-West.  The quotation comes from Geert Mak’s excellent In Europe.

“My inheritance was not extensive in the financial sense, but rich in contacts and influence.  And it lent me a natural self-confidence, a background against which I could place myself.  My father put it this way: ‘I detested the rich, but I was wild about learning, science, intellect, the mind.  I have always taken the side of the underdog, but I have also adhered to the principle of the aristocracy.”

In this quotation we see the interplay of social and cultural capital, the links to education and the development of a faux-essentialist conception of the self and the worth of certain conceptions of intellectual endeavour.  Finally, the values of the elite are held up as a moral principle.

David Harvey ‘The Crisis Today’ @ Marxism 2009

By far the best thing I saw at the conference and an insightful, challenging analysis of the next steps in the crisis in which David Harvey presents a new model of restructuring around seven ‘moments’ that offers an opportunity to the left for a reconceptualisation of it’s approach.

New arcades/promenades post

I’ve just posted about ‘the fantasy of cultural history’ and cultural materialism on the arcades/promenades blog.  Wesley has also posted a photo-essay that takes its cue from Brighton’s promenade.

“…fashion…this semblance of the new is reflected, like one mirror in another, in the semblance of the ever recurrent. The product of this reflection is the phantasmagoria of “cultural history” in which the bourgeoisie enjoys its false consciousness to the full.” (Benjamin 2002: 11)

The arcades/promenades blog is a representation of our attempt to grapple with the meanings and practices of the seaside promenade through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’

Arcades and Promenades

Along with Wesley Rykalski, I have just embarked on an online project that seeks to examine the role of the seaside promenade in the imagination and practices of late modernity, through a critical encounter with Walter Benjamin‘s ‘The Arcades Project’.   In his final project, Benjamin was attempting to critique the ‘bourgeois experience of nineteenth century history’, partly through exploring the covered arcades of Paris, which he saw as emblematic of the attractions and contradictions of capitalist modernity.  By bringing together the arcades and the promenades we hope to enrich our understanding of both of these spatial responses to the coming together of capital, leisure and public space.

We will be collaboratively reading and responding to Benjamin’s text on the arcades / promenades blog and have posted up some reading for March to get things started.  As time goes on, we will develop a strategy of interspersing reflections on these readings with reflections and documentation on the seaside promenade.  More collaborators are welcome, please get in touch via the blog.

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Reading Marx’s ‘Capital’

Over at this blog you can watch, listen to, download or subscribe to a series of lectures given by David Harvey on Marx’s ‘Capital’.   This is a great resource of video lectures by one of the world’s most important Marx scholars.  There is something of a Marx revival going on at the moment as a response to capitalism’s latest systemic crisis, but a real lack of explication of Marx in the public domain. I’ve embedded one of the lectures below, but I’d recommend downloading them and viewing them offline, probably with a notebook!

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Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty

Andy Miah’s new book, ‘Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty’, is being launched with a day long conference at F.A.C.T. in Liverpool on 30th October.  “The book is a major, design-led publication, consisting of 25 Chapters by artists, bioethicists, sociologists, designers and philosophers. These are accompanied by 250+ images from leading artists and designers.”.  You can find out more about the book and the launch by going to its website here

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