Article by Bro Joseph_May 2010


Traditionally, there has been a split in the definition of man, man was considered to be a spirit imprisoned in the body. Thinkers like Descartes speculated that the body and spirit are connected in the grand. This theory is called dualism. Descartes was troubled by the question, how the spiritual can affect the non-spiritual. Seemingly, the body and spirit are two diametrically opposed sides. Trying to answer this very question the existentialists nullified the dualistic approach to the study of man because they believed and still believe that man to exist as Da Sein must be an embodied spirit. Man can not exist in the world without a body. However, man as consciousness is beyond the physical body but he can not be without a body hence the phrase “beyond but not without”. The body here carries with it all the sensibility.

It is in this respect that when we look at the development of man holistically, we realize that whatever means we employ should help man realize himself as beyond but not without. The spirit should be developed without neglecting the body. Aristotle affirmed that man is a social animal. This means that man can not but be in a society. It is in this regard that whatever is meant for the development of man should be viewed in the context of the society. If man is developed so is the society in which he lives and if the society is developed so is the culture. Culture is the product of man’s intelligence in the society. In order for culture to be developed man has to be first in the society. Therefore, the social dimension of man embraces the cultural dimension. Man in society strives towards development and development happens when man moves from the natural world to the cultural world. Man to progress in the cultural world he needs cultural capital just as he needs social capital for his social development. Development happens progressively, there are no short cuts to development. Cultural development can not take place in the absence of social development because cultural development springs from social development. To understand this clearly let me deal squarely with the signification of social and cultural capital.

Social capital is a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. Pierre Bourdieu defines social capital as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition. With social capital one may come into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors (Hanifan, 1916).

Cultural capital refers to non-financial assets like knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society (Bourdieu, 1986). Bourdieu divides cultural capital in three; Embodied, Objectified and Institutionalized cultural capital. Embodied cultural capital consists of both the consciously acquired and the passively “inherited” properties of one’s self (with “inherit[ance]” here used not in the genetic sense but in the sense of receipt over time, usually from the family through socialization, of culture and traditions). Objectified cultural capital consists of physical objects that are owned, such as scientific instruments or works of art. These cultural goods can be transmitted both for economic profit (as by buying and selling them with regard only to others’ willingness to pay) and for the purpose of “symbolically” conveying the cultural capital whose acquisition they facilitate. Institutionalized cultural capital consists of institutional recognition, most often in the form of academic credentials or qualifications, of the cultural capital held by an individual. This concept plays its most prominent role in the labor market, in which it allows a wide array of cultural capital to be expressed in a single qualitative and quantitative measurement (and compared against others’ cultural capital similarly measured). Don Bosco Technical Institute is striving to take a lead in equipping the young with cultural capital needed to give them a fore start in society.

Even though man is the unity of the society and cultural capital refers to what an individual possesses, nevertheless development is only measured by the advancement in humanizing a society. Of course there would never be a humanized society without humanized individuals. But a society with only a handful of humanized individuals would not be called developed. This is why social capital is prior to cultural capital in development. Humanizing a society means providing a conducive environment where every individual regardless of his/her status can fully realize oneself. This is what we refer to as community capacity building in social sciences.

What hinders development in most of our societies is putting the individual and his egoistic desires first before the society. This is the perverse form of chathu ndi chathu philosophy. In English it can be translated as yours is yours or your own is your own. The perverse kind of this philosophy limits social networks in such a way that cultural capital in all its forms circulates only within the hands of a few. This creates a big gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in the society. The cultural capital of each group circulates only within that group and in turn it reduces the quality of the cultural capital because it becomes closed instead of being open. In a globalised world like ours characterized by diversity, closed cultures are prone to extinction. Nevertheless, chathu ndi chathu in its posivitivity and philosophicality has an absolute aperture to the other, thus opening the flood gates for social network expansion.

Conclusively, societies can only talk about development if the concept that social capital is beyond but not without cultural capital fully understood and it becomes a duty of all to realize it. Otherwise development will still be a mere dream. 

By Bro Joseph.

Leave a Reply