Urban cultural capital: a research agenda

Date and time
Wednesday 5th December 2012
6-8 pm (GMT)

LSE Geography and Environment, Room OLD.3.21, Old Building (see http://www2.lse.ac.uk/mapsanddirections/findingyourwayaroundlse.aspx)

Urban cultural capital: a research agenda


Professor Mike Savage, Department of Sociology, LSE 


Dr. HaeRan Shin (UCL Bartlett School of Planning)

Dr Murray Low (LSE Geography and Environment)

Abstract: This paper argues that there is huge, though currently largely unrealised  potential  in analysing the growing significance of urban cultural capital. Although there is now a considerable literature on the re-valorisation of urban centres due to processes of globalisation and economic restructuring (Sassen 2000; etc), we need to understand better how he contemporary city is also being redefined as a fundamental crucible in which forms of ‘cosmopolitan cultural capital’ are being forged. Only by recognising the accelerating interplay between urban centrality and the generation of ‘cosmopolitan cultural capital’, can we fully understand the increasing prominence of large metropolitan centres, which stand in increasing tension to their suburban hinterlands. The pivot of my argument will be that whereas Bourdieu’s conception of the Kantian aesthetic which lies at the heart of cultural capital is held to be based on its differentiation from ‘everyday life’, and therefore celebrates an ascetic aesthetic at odds with urban life, the past three decades have seen a remaking of cultural capital in which its ‘wordly’ and ‘engaged’ modes of cultural capital are coming to the fore. I exemplify this argument using data from surveys of cultural taste and engagement, and through reflections on the contemporary role of urban universities and cultural institutions. 

For a general overview on Bourdieu and urban sociology, Mike recommends this chapter of his:

Savage, M. (2011) The Lost Urban Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. In Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (eds.) The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Blackwell, pp.511-520