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Manet or Monet - does knowing the difference matter? An examination of cultural capital in popular discourse

Faculty Advisor




cultural capital, social media, advertising

Abstract (summary)

Consumer cultures are fueled by the anxiety of modern shoppers who purchase goods that best facilitate distinction from others. In an endless barrage of brands, all promising the potential of a "better self," how does one know which brand to choose? Advertisers are expert at manufacturing desire by creating symbolic links between their products and feelings of self-worth, particularly regarding true or subjectively perceived improvements in social status. This presentation reports secondary research of sources engaging Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of taste as an indicator of class and cultural capital as a means of social mobility. Evidence supporting the theory shows that individuals must possess cultural capital, in the form of academic or social knowledge, to identify cultural worth across different contexts. However, limitations to the real-world or current applicability of cultural capital include the failure of the concept to account for “low culture” or non-academic contexts. The presentation examines how in “high culture” contexts, the culturally savvy use the concept to establish class distinctions, whereas in low culture contexts, cultural capital as theorized by Bourdieu does little to merit one’s worth. Based on this analysis, I will offer a new look at the shifting currents of social media and how it can be used to convert the “subcultural capital” of grassroots campaigns into cultural capital by forcing academic concepts into news commentary, mainstream debate, and thus, popular consciousness.

Publication Information



Presented on April 23, 2018 at Student Research Day held at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.

Item Type

Student Presentation




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