From Art to Community: The Implications of Arts Participation for Civic Participation
Sociology Emory University Atlanta, USA
Benedictine College Sociology Atchinson, USA
Pierre Bourdieu's scholarship has inspired multiple streams of research. One notable stream addresses, in particular, the implications of cultural capital for various domains of life - including domains of art (e.g., training in and engagement in musical activities) and civil society (e.g., voluntary service). Relatively little research, however, addresses the implications of cultural capital across domains. This inattention is particularly notable as it obscures the theoretical richness of cultural capital. Indeed, Holt (1997) reminds us that cultural capital is both abstract and concrete - with the former involving a "set of generic transposable characteristics" dispositions, skills, sensibilities, embodied knowledges concerning the body, beauty, creativity, individuality, achievement and so on - that together compose the habitus of cultural elites. Meanwhile, cultural capital becomes "concrete" when used in field-specific ways.
We explore the "transposability" of cultural capital by investing its implications across two domains, particularly as it flows from artisitc participation to civic participation in the city of Chicago. Of course, other literatures have addressed the issue of civic participation by examining why people volunteer. Some suggest that social capital plays a role. In other words, people who are well connected are the most likely to volunteer. Others emphasize the importance of human capital. They suggest that those with higher education and prestigious jobs are most active in the community (e.g., Wilson 2000).
We address such claims - as well as the implications of cultural capital - by drawing on a unique survey, The Arts in Everyday Life. This survey allows us to gauge, for instance, how the frequency of civic participation is shaped by the diverse networks that arts participation allows (social capital) and the diversity of skills that it imparts (cultural capital). As a result, we are able to see how engagement in artistic activities transfers to engagement in community life. This allows us to discuss both the concrete interplay between the arts and their broader environment and to shed some empirical light on particular aspects of Bourdieu's theoretical argument.