Children's University Aspirations and the Effects of Cultural and Social Capital

Matthew Cochrane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The ideas of Pierre Bourdieu most frequently applied to education research are in the realm of class and privilege, and are often used to investigate inequalities in the education system. His theories of ‘habitus’ and forms of capital are commonly cited, especially when researchers explore how social groups are able to maintain a privileged position through their accumulation of cultural and social capital, or when analysing the ideological constructs that give rise to the social experiences that contribute to identity formation. Bourdieu describes how capital is invested in the family so that subsequent generations may use capital to their advantage in maintaining a privileged position in society. For example, wealthy parents are able to send their children to the ‘best’ schools in order to accumulate cultural capital in the form of academic qualifications, which universities will accept as fulfilling their entry requirements; underprivileged members of society find it difficult to obtain such capital. The concept is particularly useful here, because Bourdieu always intended for his work to be of practical use – Grenfell and James (1998) describe how Bourdieu sought to emphasise the link between the theory and practice of education; indeed he saw them as inextricably connected. Their book gives a range of fields in which Bourdieu’s ideas have been used.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplying Theory to Educational Research: An Introductory Approach with Case Studies
EditorsJ. Adams, M. Cochrane, L. Dunne
Place of PublicationChichester
Number of pages225
ISBN (Print)9780470972366
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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