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Cultural Capital: The Value Of Creativity

Date : 10/02/2018


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Uploaded by : Luiz
Uploaded on : 10/02/2018
Subject : Music History

Cultural Capital: The Value of Creativity

The theory of cultural capital proposes that social status can transcend the economic class system by applying value to non-financial assets such as culture& which in turn can be used as a means of forming new social structures within society. The sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu first used the term in 1973. Although the theory has received much recognition for its attempted alteration of the way in which we perceive status within society, Bourdieu &s initial definition has often been denounced for its lack of conceptual clarity. As an emblem of culture& art should always be considered within its socio-historical context if it is to be fully understood and appreciated. Janet Wolff lt;/i>argues against the romantic and mystical notion of art as the creation of &genius &, transcending existence, society and time, and argues that it is rather the complex construction of a number of real, historical factors & (1981: 1). By accepting that art is a product of its social and historical surroundings, we must accept that the culture it represents is also a product of its social and historical surroundings. Therefore, the constraints of the economic class system are still present within cultural capital. Within this essay, the author intends to look at how culture and creativity intertwine to create a dualism. Exploring how they influence each other within their socio-historical context to create new art& which in turn, can create new cultures and new means of creativity. It aims to look at the cross pollination of culture and class, looking specifically at how a culture created by one social class can be adopted by another, which in turn alters the value of its cultural capital. This essay will pay particular attention towards the social evolution of Jazz music and how it has earned &high brow & cultural status within social circles that transcend its own socio-historical origins. The author will also look at creativity &s role within sub- cultures such as kraut-rock and punk-rock, examining how they became a product of their social and historical surroundings. Evaluating how sub-cultures happen, how they may be adopted into mainstream culture and how the creativity within society is affected by this.

Sub categories of cultural capital

Bourdieu &s theory divides the capital into three subtypes: embodied, objectified and institutionalised. The notion of embodied capital represents the cultural values that an individual inherits from birth through socialization within the family and their immediate environment. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, those values inherited by the individual will be influenced by the social constricts embodied within the class system that the family are a part of and the environment in which they exist. The objectified serves as a means for signifying an individual &s cultural capital through the ownership of physical objects, such as scientific instruments, sculptures or paintings. Particularly with pieces of art, the purchase of these items may depend upon the individuals financial affordance beyond the means of necessity, which again indicates the influence of the class system upon an individual &s cultural heritage and their means for expressing it. It addresses the affordance of luxury and the lt;/i>movement away from regarding goods merely as utilities having a use-value and an exchange-value which can be related to some fixed system of human needs & (Featherstone: 2007: 83). Institutionalised cultural capital refers to an institution &s formal recognition of a skill, usually in the form of an award or a certificate. Within this sub category of cultural capital, the institution can apply a definitive value to specific cultural assets. This is beneficial when converting cultural capital to economic capital as the process of trade and exchange is defined upon agreeable terms by the institution.

Understanding these sub-categories is key to defining how new cultures are created, represented and valued within society. Whilst the concept of cultural capitalism is held in strong regard for its attempts to alter the perception of class structure as negated by economic wealth& ultimately it is the economic wealth that shapes the class divide &s cultural commodities. Furthermore, if we are to consider Antonio Gramsci &s theory of cultural hegemony, which suggests society is an infrastructure in which &subordinate groups and classes appear to actively support and subscribe to values, ideals, objectives, cultural and political meanings, which bind them to, and &incorporate & them into the prevailing structures of power & (Storey: 2001: 103) then it is unlikely that an economic class will spontaneously oppose the cultural confines of their status within society. &Because hegemony is always the result of &negotiations & between dominant and subordinate groups, it is a process marked by both &resistance & and &incorporation it is never simply power opposed from above & (Storey: 2001: 105). Due to this, new shifts in culture have almost always been created by the subordinate class in the aftermath of a great historical event or when society has experienced a state of unrest. It is the &resistance & of the subordinate classes that create &s the new culture. The author suggests that these cultures are created as a means of expressing individualism that is detached from the constricts of state power.

lt;/p>The creation of a sub-culture: Kraut-rock and punk-rock

lt;/p>Kraut-rock is seen as one of the most prolific creative periods in Germany &s musical history. The term itself was considered derogatory when it was first used by the UK music press to define the wild fusions of rock n roll, psychedelic, jazz, avant garde and electronic music that the artists experimented with. All the bands included within the genre bare minimal resemblance musically to each other. Instead, that which connected them was the social environment they were created in and the defining historical period that the music proceeded. Irmin Schmidt of West-Germany &s CAN explains how the musical movement was created by youth &s revolt against a post-war Germany experiencing and enduring a state of cultural nothingness.

&All the young revolutionaries of 1968 had parents who were either Nazis or had suffered under the Nazis, and the relationship of the parents to the Nazis, and of their children to them, was a special German thing and had a big influence on the 1968 troubles and for 20 years, we had got rid of culture. It wasn`t just towns that were bombed& culture was bombed too, and you can`t rebuild culture & (Gill: 1997).

If Culture is created by the subordinate &s resistance to &organic intellectuals & defined by Gramsci as &an elite of men of culture, who have the function of providing leadership of a cultural and general and ideological nature & (2001: 105) then kraut-rock was the subordinate &s resistance to the &Schlager & music endorsed by the state and within the media. Schlager, described in the BBC documentary Kraut-rock: The Rebirth of Germany as &inoffensive, light weight pop. A world away from what was happening in West Germany & is a key example of cultural hegemony. Whilst society is accepting of the &inoffensive, light weight pop & they are creating a cultural juxtaposition that does not truly represent the socio-historical environment it is created in. The cultural relevance is contrived and therefore the creativity is of less value. The lower classes are submissive and accepting of the state power &s ruling. The sub-culture of kraut-rock went largely undetected within the mainstream in both the UK and Germany. As its popularity rose in the UK, several of the bands were signed up to major labels. Faust signed with Virgin records, but their records failed to chart highly and they were later dropped. Though many of the bands enjoy a sustainable cult status, they have largely remained underground to the present day. The exception of course, is Kraftwerk who are considered pioneers of electronic music. However, as a musical movement, the sub-culture of kraut-rock is largely undefinable. Many of the bands were not aware of each others work and they were keen to disassociate themselves from other bands for the sake of their own individuality. Whilst this particular sub-culture avoided the mainstream &s homogenisation of it &s stylistic attributes, many other sub-cultures have succumbed to it. The punk-rock movement is a prime example of a sub-culture &s socio- historical motives being &dumbed down & for mainstream consumption. Despite bands such as the The Clash and The Sex Pistols supporting punk-rock &s initial anarchic stance& which hypothetically proposed the absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal. Punk &s initial explosion, much like kraut-rock was a youthful rebellion against society. On a sub-cultural level, both punk-rock and kraut-rock embodied the theory of cultural capital and show how on a smaller scale, the ideology of a cultural class can transcend the regiment of an economic class. The youth &s cultural identity unites them above their economic assets. The media &s repeated exposure of the movement served only to subvert it &s ideologies and expose merely the superficialities of the genre. The mainstream consumed punk-rock. Mohawks, safety pins and banishment of the fourth chord came to represent the genre& dismissing it &s initial rebellious stance against authority and the popular music that had preempted it. When the genre &s trademark 3-chord sound began to grow tired of repeating itself, many of the original punks began to incorporate other genre &s of music into their own. The Clash experimented heavily with reggae and dub and The Buzzcocks began to adopt the stylings of the new- wave stance. These bands retained their punk ideologies despite looking or sounding very little like the media &s representation of the punk movement. The upholding of &artistic integrity & that these bands retained through renewed sources of creative expression ask us to question how we as a society value creativity. Firstly though, it is important to define what creativity is, how it happens and how society values it within culture.

lt;/p>Creativity: How it occurs and how society values it


Creativity is the assembling formation of an abstract concept. As humans we are programmed to adapt or create a solution in order to survive in our habitual environment. Beyond the means of necessity, creativity can be defined as an individual &s ideology, influenced and shaped by it &s socio-historical context, formulated into a physical representation in which it can be viewed from the perspective of others. The most important aspect of this creativity is that it is first perceivable as an individual &s abstract concept within their imagination. Karl Marx explains the human mind set, differentiating it from that of an animals, in which our abstract thought serves as the signifier, to the signified creation.

&The operations of a spider resemble those of a weaver, and many a human architect is put to shame by the bee in the construction of it &s wax cells. However, the poorest architect is categorically distinguished from the best of bees by the fact that before he builds a cell in wax, he has built it in his head. The result achieved at the end of a labour process was already achieved in it &s commencement, in the imagination of the worker, in it &s ideal form & (Marx and Engels: 1973: 53).

This explanation attempts to define the difference between creativity as a &creation & and &creating & as the process which preempts it. If we determine creativity as a conceptual ideology in the form of an individual &s abstract thought& then we can define &creating & as the process in which said ideology is transformed from it &s abstract state into a more coherent and definable object for society &s consumption. For example, a painting in an art gallery. Understanding the difference between a true creative mind, as opposed to an individual who merely &creates & is paramount to deciphering how culture is valued and merited within society.

It is proposed that the influence of economic capital upon creativity is intrinsic to the creation of what society perceives to be &new art & which in turn can create new culture. It is also proposed that Marx & theory on &the dehumanisation of labour & created within capitalist society is responsible for both the creation of new sub-cultures, and their transition in to mainstream culture. Wolff addresses the dehumanisation of labour in an explanation which the author believes defines how the artist becomes responsible for the creation of new cultures when they are creatively detached from the notion of capitalism within art. Her theory locates the renaissance period as when society &s perception of the &artist as genius & originated. It addresses how capitalist modes of production impose creative constricts upon those artists working within the confines of a capitalist society.

&Artistic production is affected by the advance of capitalism, though not initially in the same way as other forms of production. With the disintegration of traditional ties between producer and consumer (Church, patron, academy) of the arts, particularly in Europe during the nineteenth century, the artist actually is, in certain ways, a free floating, unattached individual not bound by patron or commission. It is easy to see, in this context, how the artist comes to be idealised as representative of non-forced truly expressive activity (overlooking, where necessary, the virtual impossibility in very many cases of actually making a living wage out of such work). In the long run, as Vazquez argues, even artistic work comes under the general law of capitalist production and becomes regarded as merchandise (p. 86)& many artists will work as wage-labourers (in industry and advertising or for the media), and the rest have to resort to the art market to sell their work. The latter will be &freer & to pursue their own creative inclination than the former & (1981: 18).

Wolff proposes that those artists not working as &wage-labourers & are not integrated &artistically & into the structure of a capitalist society. By being artistically detached from capitalist structures, they are free from the constraints of creating art as &merchandise &. The author proposes that new culture (sub-culture) is created by those detached artistically from the capitalist system (the subordinate class). The artist is motivated not by financial gain, but by their socio-historical surroundings. If society relate to the newly created sub-culture on a smaller scale and adopts it, it &s popularity will grow. Capitalist organisations and the media (the dominant class) will begin to manufacture and package the culture, homogenising it &s characteristic features for ease of consumption and understanding within the larger scale context of the &mainstream &. Once the mainstream has engulfed the sub-culture, it loses social and historical context and is defined only by it &s characteristic features.

lt;/p>Case study: The socio-historical evolution of jazz music

Jazz music is a genre that encompasses so many sub-genres and sub-cultures that it is hard to categorise without defining it within it &s socio-historical context. However, as a genre it does contain defining musical characteristics which allow it to be recognised holistically as a genre by passive listeners, who do not require understanding or appreciation of it &s social or historical background to identify it. The origins of jazz music can be traced to New Orleans and are rooted in the folk music that was being created by the oppressed, West-African slave-workers who were captured and brought over to America up until the mid 1800 &s. This was fused with European classical music of the 18th and early 19th century (which was popular in America at the time) to form what become known as ragtime. It encompassed the minor chord voicing &s of the African folk music (which would also form the basis of the blues) and the syncopated rhythms of the classical music. By understanding the creative roots of ragtime as a genre, we recognise Wolff &s theory against &art as the creation of &genius & to be accurate. By defining it &s musical characteristics as the fusion of European classical music and the roots music of Africa& we can see that the genre was created not by random &genius &, but rather &the complex construction of a number of real, historical factors &. Furthermore, Gramsci &s theory on cultural hegemony is present in the oppression of the black population from the white-American establishment. Despite slavery being abolished in 1865, the black population were still considered second-class citizens. They had minimal legal rights and civil rights and were severely limited in their economic opportunities. In relation to Gramsci &s theory, they were very much the lowest economic class, the subordinate class. The author suggests that the emergence of Jazz culture began due to the subordinate class revolting culturally against the dominant class. Brought over as slaves and depraved of their own cultural inheritance& the black community created their own new culture and reclaimed their own sense of identity. However, much like kraut-rock and punk-rock were moved forward by restless adolescence, it was the white middle-class youth of America who adopted jazz as their own popular music. As WW1 ended and mainstream radio began broadcasting, jazz music became the soundtrack of what was dubbed &the roaring twenties &. Jazz music &s cultural capital transcended it &s economic lower class background to become a much lauded popular music in which it &s social and historical context evolved from a sub-cultural rebellion against oppression, in to a cultural uprising which soundtracked the country &s youth. It propelled a new America forward into the twentieth century with &increased urbanization, technological innovation, and a developing commercial entertainment & (Carney: 1996: 14). Furthermore, Jazz & cultural value has increased forthwith since then and it is now regarded amongst elitists as a high-brow, disciplined art-form. It is now treated by the higher class as a signifier of cultural wealth, acknowledged by the institution as an educational and cultural asset, or &interest & as Bourdieu defined them. It is used &as a mask for strategic exchangeability and the accumulation of capitals and power, linked to the established (class) interests & (Banks: 2012: 73). The study of Jazz from an elitist perspective suggests &any apparent investment in the internal goods of a practice would appear to act ( &in the last instance &) as a vehicle for the concealment of a strategic interest in the acquisition or accumulation of external goods & (73).Indeed in the 1940 &s, &twenty years removed from its contentious adolescence, jazz seemed perfectly harmless and perfectly American in a postwar society concerned more with consumption than fretting over the social impact of a music years past its prime & (1996: 15). Once again, the mainstream eventually consumed the notion of &jazz & music. At the height of it &s popularity, the dominant class (in the form of the national media) homogenised jazz & assets, most notably as the definable sound of &swing & and big band music. It is worth acknowledging that sub-culturally Jazz has continued to retain it &s values in the form of new sub-genres which have evaded mainstream consumption, most notably the radical experimentation of free jazz in the 1960 &s and the eclectic genre of jazz-fusion created in the 1970 &s. Mark Bank &s sociological study on the labour of jazz musicians attempts to deconstruct why individuals pursue jazz music as a career despite it &s menial rewards in regard to economic capital gain. Bank &s research revealed that &external goods such as money, status and power were also valued (though often little accrued), and tended to be disdained or recognised as more likely obtainable in other (better paid, higher profile) artistic fields & (2012: 73). The author proposes that the cultural capital of jazz music can be divided into two key categories which define it &s cultural value in relation to it &s economic class. The proposed theory considers Bank &s theory of the &Bourdieusian approach (to jazz or other cultural work) & and uses it to define how economic class affects the cultural value of jazz music where it can be appropriately applied. It relates specifically to Bourdieu &s definition of &internal goods & and how they are perceived within different economic class constructs. It considers Gramsci &s theory of the &dominant & and the &subordinate & classes and their relationship with the creation and consumption of culture. The author proposes that the three sub-categories of cultural capital can be applied accordingly to different classes. Firstly, where applicable the dominant class see jazz music as as both an institutionalised and objectified form of cultural capital. It is a skill that is learned through acknowledged educational methods (institutionalised) and then showcased as an acquired asset (objectified) in the portrayal of a well-rounded and well- educated individual. Hypothetically: if a child in a higher-class family from Kent, England has after-school jazz saxophone lessons paid for by their parents, it is both institutionalised capital (acknowledged by the educational board) and objectified capital (acquired by purchase). The objectified notion of jazz as cultural capital is a symbol within the dominant class, and as Banks suggests is used as an &acquisition or accumulation of external goods &. However where applicable, in subordinate classes the cultural capital of jazz is most likely represented in the form of embodied capital. Hypothetically: if a child in a working-class, African-American family from New Orleans learns to play jazz music by ear in his Granddad &s hot-jazz quartet. It is embodied capital inherited from the family and within their surrounding social and historical habitat. In this instance the lower-class recognise the inheritance as &the socially shaping significance of ethics and values that lie beyond the strategising of exchangeable interests & (2012: 86).


This essay concludes with the author &s re-assessed opinion on the theory of cultural capital and its value as a means for transcending the social constructs of economic class. An individual &s cultural capital will remain closely linked to their economic class status regardless of whether it is a viable format for establishing new social classes within society. Despite the inevitable influence of one &s economic class upon their cultural inheritance, there is one social circle which appears to transcend the constricts of economic class. Within this essay &s three key genre &s of analysis (kraut-rock, punk-rock, jazz), it is acknowledged that all three were supported and eventually brought into the mainstream by what is collectively referred to as the &youth &. The author determines the &youth & to be adolescents, teenagers and young adults definable as a social class who are united by the cultural landmarks of their generation. They are both the creators of sub-cultural movements and the core audience who accept and develop them. The youths who created these sub-cultures were a part of the subordinate class and did so as an act of cultural emancipation. Whereas the dominant class can retain cultural hegemony through society as a whole &s acceptance of capitalist structures, the subordinate class will respond through the creation of sub-cultures. As sub-cultures, they are owned by the social group which created them and are not interfered with by the dominant class, as &sub-culturally & the dominant class is (at the time) unaware of their cultural relevance. Inevitably, a sub- culture &s progressive rise in popularity will eventually succumb to the structures of a capitalist society. As potential for economic gain becomes apparent, state power (for example: corporations, major record labels) will recognise the sub-culture as a viable format for making profit. The sub-culture then becomes accepted in the mainstream as a definable, characteristically-linear product devoid of it &s original social and historical context. In summary, the sub-culture is defined by creativity, and mainstream culture is defined by &creating & or the &re-creation & of that original creativity. This completes the author &s theory of the cultural cycle and the evolving role that cultural capital plays throughout it. Finally, Wolff &s theory on &art as &genius & is to be acknowledged for recognising the importance of art &s socio-historical context within it &s creation. This theory directly supports the strong bond between an economic class and the cultural values associated with it. The dualism of culture and creativity rely heavily upon their social and historical context to value their cultural capital. The social and historical context inspires and influences creativity, which in turn can create new culture. The new culture is defined by it &s social and historical context which then defines it &s cultural capital. It &s value varies according to the economic class of the individual perceiving it. The social class herein defined as &youth & is an exception to the rule of cultural capital being confined to it &s economic class constricts. The author concludes that the true value of cultural capital is not definitive and will change dependent on a number of factors. It &s value will vary depending on the individual &s perception of culture. Conclusively, by accepting the necessity of social and historical context within the creation and understanding of art and culture& we must acknowledge that the economic class system will always be influential on an individual &s perception of art &s cultural value.



Banks, Mark (2012), Macintyre, Bourdieu and the Practice of Jazz (Cambridge University Press)

Clayton/ Herbert/ Middleton, Martin/ Trevor/ Richard (2003), the Cultural Study of Music: a critical introduction (New York and London: Routledge)

Featherstone, Mike (2007), Consumer Culture and Post-Modernism (London: Sage Publications LTD)

Gill, Andy (1997), (Mojo Magazine)

Storey, John (2001), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (Dorset: Henry Ling LTD)

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The Social Production of Art (London: Macmillan Press LTD)

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