Spiritual capital: Theorizing religion with Bourdieu against Bourdieu

Sociological Theory 21 (2):150-174 (2003)
Bourdieu's theory of culture offers a rich conceptual resource for the social-scientific study of religion. In particular, his analysis of cultural capital as a medium of social relations suggests an economic model of religion alternative to that championed by rational choice theorists. After evaluating Bourdieu's limited writings on religion, this paper draws upon his wider work to craft a new model of "spiritual capital." Distinct from Iannaccone's and Stark and Finke's visions of "religious capital," this Bourdieuian model treats religious knowledge, competencies, and preferences as positional goods within a competitive symbolic economy. The valuation of spiritual capital is the object of continuous struggle and is subject to considerable temporal and subcultural variation. A model of spiritual capital illuminates such phenomena as religious conversion, devotional eclecticism, religious fads, and social mobility. It also suggests some necessary modifications to Bourdieu's theoretical system, particularly his understanding of individual agency, cultural production, and the relative autonomy of fields
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DOI 10.2307/3108623
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