Symbolic capital

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The symbolic capital is one of four of Pierre Bourdieu coined types of capital . In contrast to economic , cultural and social capital , however, this has an overriding role. The sociological term primarily describes the opportunities that lead to the acquisition and maintenance of social recognition and social prestige . This can be done by inserting the other types of capital. For example, symbolic capital can be gained from legitimizing cultural capital . Another example would be sponsorship , which helps the owner of economic capital to gain social recognition. But all other forms of gaining and maintaining prestige, such as the relevant practices of artists , politicians , television stars, and well-known athletes , can lead to symbolic capital .

As a sign of social recognition and social power or social violence , the symbolic capital confers prestige , reputation , decorations , privileges and positions. This takes place against the background of the disposal of the other types of capital, the actors and the various classes by means of a certain distinctive language and other physical forms of expression such as clothing, style and behavior. Although it is possible to derive symbolic capital from any other type of capital, it can only be used successfully where it is recognized and recognized as superior by the opponents against the background of a common cultural pattern. As an example of symbolic capital , which as symbolic violence is used, can be noisy Bourdieu the male domination are:

"It is that gentle, invisible violence that is imperceptible to its victims, which is essentially exercised through purely symbolic means of communication and [...] recognition or, at the most, feeling."

- Pierre Bourdieu

Sorts of capital

Pierre Bourdieu's four types of capital :

  1. Economic capital
  2. Cultural capital
    • incorporated
    • objectified
    • institutionalized
  3. Social capital
  4. Symbolic capital ("commonly referred to as prestige , reputation , etc.")

The symbolic capital cannot be equated with the other three types of capital, since only the sum of these three forms the symbolic capital . Fundamentally, symbolic capital differs from economic and cultural capital in the way in which it is created. It usually occurs in conjunction with other resources , to whose legitimation and power it then contributes. On the contrary, social capital is always part of symbolic capital , as it is dependent on recognition in order to be used as a means of power. In addition, symbolic capital differs from the other types of capital in that it is not only found in social space, but also in lifestyles .

In a later work by Bourdieu , the radius of symbolic capital is expanded to include the religious aspect . He explains this by the fact that nowadays hardly anyone sees the meaning of his life in religion , and people are now dependent on looking for the justification of their existence in other people.


Earlier advocates of similar concepts included a. Georg Simmel with his concept of lifestyle ( The Problem of Style 1908) and Thorstein Veblen with his concept of spiritual capital . Veblen assumes that conflicts over material resources often first have to be converted into spiritual capital (religion, patriotism ) before they can mobilize the masses.


  • Werner Fuchs-Heinritz and Alexandra König: Pierre Bourdieu. An introduction . UVK, Konstanz and Munich 2011 (2nd edition) ISBN 978-3-8252-3551-2 (UTB 2649).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: Social Space and Classes . Two lectures. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1985 ISBN 3-518-28100-3 several new editions (French Leçon sur la leçon. 1982).
  • Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-Claude Passeron: Foundations of a theory of symbolic violence . Frankfurt a. M. Suhrkamp 1973 ISBN 3-51807-365-6 (French 1970).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: On the sociology of symbolic forms . Suhrkamp 2000, Frankfurt a. M. 1974, ISBN 3-51827-707-3 (French 1970).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: The subtle differences. Critique of social judgment. Frankfurt a. M. 1982, ISBN 3-51828-258-1 (French 1979).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: Question and answer . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-51811-547-2 (French 1987).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: The male rule. Frankfurt a. M. 2005, ISBN 3-518-58435-9 (French 1998).

Individual evidence

  1. An Inquiry into the Nature of Peace and the Terms of its Perpetuation (1917), Kindle edition, Chapter I.