Engaging Cultural Capital

What makes people who and what they are?  There are two concepts that help us understand the dynamics of identity, which have been elaborated upon by different disciplines and academic corpora.  Both concepts have been specifically defined yet are ontologically related.  Even more so, they might be one and the same thing depending on how you approach the subject of interest.  The two concepts are heritage and ego.

Heritage is “baggage”.  People are born with identity, they are not a blank sheet.  Even if its personality depends to a great extent on the enviroment it is connected to, there is a large load of information that have an effect on that environment and that will determine the person’s identity throughout his or her life.  This identity is carried by DNA and by a surname -if any-, and is represented as an appearance and certain biological state derived of the habits and practices that incide on the molecular structure of the biological being since the moment of conception until the baby is born.

Ego is the resulting identity manifested in the interaction of the biological self with its surroundings.  The ego is created many times unconsciously and some times by choice. Quality of life has to do directly with that ratio: the reactive and proactive process of signifying the entity.
It is clear that in our mediatized era it is not only individuals and families that construct their identities, but also organizations, multi-lateral organisms and even nation-states.

That which is “biological” and that which is “cultural” may be separated for the sake of definition, yet may also be understood as a holistic dynamic that make up what we are.  Even at the organizational level, which may also be understood in biological terms.

Conscioulsy and proactively building and creating an identity has positive effects on the signifier.  There are social forces that may operate against this proactive identification process.  If the process of signifying is bound to change the actual structures and institutions of a community, the community is bound to reject such identity out of the uncertainty of the result of such boundary-crossing.  If the process of signification does not represent a menace to the subsistance of the actual structures and institutions, the community is bound to welcome such identity and even promote it as an exemplary part of the whole.

Cultural Capital may be acquired, multiplied and transfered.  It is bound to be productive, useful and in specific terms it adds value to the system in which the entity coexists.  Hence, cultural capital must be apprehensible in economic terms while functioning and existing transversally within the entire system.

Cultural Capital has to do with the social and economic dynamic of time usage.  From a cultural perspective, families that are more endowed with cultural capital at a certain point in time, necessarily have inherited prior generations’ effort and investing on the construction of identity.  Families that need, at a certain moment in time, to construct an identity from “scratch” or that need to develop a synchretic one when marrying outside of their native culture, will have to burden to social weigh and will have an effect on the system’s quality of life.

Cultural Capital is translatable to and exchangable for different types of capital.  This is one of the main questions and organizational challenges we deal with.  We are to a great extent guided by a specific question: how can culture make people more productive?  This question may be answered in several ways and has many implications, for instance, the different phases that make up culture and the holistic ontologies of consumption and production.


JD Rico is the founder of Holistics and Partner and Editor of the Digitalist Hub. He is a researcher and entrepreneur in the topics of Business Intelligence, Digital Media and Venture Capital. He holds degrees in Anthropology (BA), Economics (BSc), Project Management- Innovation (MSc), Cultural Studies (Min) and Artificial Intelligence Product and Service Design (Cert.). He serves at the board of companies in Emerging Tech, Wellness, Food Tech and Cultural Impact. He writes Cap∙Hackers, a newsletter for 33,000 business owners and investors.

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