Bourdieu developed the concept of cultural capital to explain differences in educational performance and cultural practices that remained unexplained by economic inequalities. Cultural or symbolic goods differ from material goods in that one can “consume” them only by apprehending their meaning. This is true for the cultural goods one encounters in museums and concert halls but also for those one encounters in school; it holds for works of art, but equally for mathematical equations, literary texts, or philosophical arguments. (It also holds equally for works of popular culture, and for all consumption goods that have symbolic meaning or value over and above their use-value.) Individuals can appropriate these goods, can apprehend their meaning, only if they already possess the necessary schemes of appreciation and understanding. The concept of cultural capital denotes the ensemble of cultivated dispositions that constitute such schemes of appreciation and understanding. These dispositions are cultivated in a double sense; in the evaluative sense, they are ‘refined’; and in the descriptive sense, they are the product of a process of (conscious or unconscious) cultivation.
Rogers Brubaker - Rethinking Classical Theory (via thepovertyoftheory)