Chapter 2: Analytical framework

Culture Club: Social mobility in the creative and cultural industries

Chapter 2: Analytical framework

The previous chapter highlighted the importance of the creative and cultural industries to London’s economy, but also the lack of representation within the sector (particularly at senior levels) in terms of gender, ethnicity and social class. As our research aims to understand the barriers faced by young people in accessing the sector, this chapter outlines some explanations for these and the consequent lack of diverse representation. We look at the sociological literature and present the theoretical framework used to design our research method and analyse our research findings. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 then explore these findings in more detail.

Research framework

To explore the barriers to entry into the creative and cultural industries, this report draws on the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, which focuses primarily on social class – although this intersects with ethnicity and gender, which can intensify the impacts of class differentiation. 26


Bourdieu argues that people from different social positions differ from one another with regard to their possession of three forms of capital: social, cultural and economic. 27 Combined, the possession of these “capitals” confer “symbolic power” to enter, progress and get ahead in society:


  • Economic capital includes all kinds of material resources (e.g. financial resources, land or property ownership) – which can also be used to acquire more culture.
  • Social capital consists of the benefits that flow from relationships at group (membership of a family or school) or individual (knowing important people) levels. Individuals can mobilise these when in need themselves or
    on behalf of their close relationships/social contacts, including for the purpose of gaining economic resources.
  • Cultural capital comes in three forms:
    –– Embodied capital: i.e. skills, formal knowledge, know-how, tastes and behaviours.
    –– Objectified capital: i.e. possession of cultural goods (e.g. books, artworks).
    –– Institutionalised capital: i.e. educational attainment (made legitimate by degrees and school certificates). 28

The following chapters of this report aim to articulate more clearly – from our research with young people, educational institutions and employers (see Appendix 2 for details) – how talent alone is no guarantee of being able to access and progress in the creative and cultural industries. Rather, education and especially social reproduction matter.

Among the salient findings of our research was the intensity of competition among applicants for jobs, with openings often attracting 100 applications for one entry-level position. This means those with the most symbolic capital have a significant advantage, while many young people are “not getting any results even though they had the right experience and the qualifications” – in a focus group participant’s words.

Participants from digital content production, visual storytelling and creative media campaigning immersion courses: Create Jobs
Participants from digital content production, visual storytelling and creative media campaigning immersion courses: Create Jobs Ketishia Vaughan
  • 26 Bourdieu’s framework focuses mainly on social class, although subsequent research has considered how ethnicity and gender differences interact with Bourdieu’s capitals research (see Meisenhelder, T. (2000), op. cit.). Indeed, ethnicity and gender function as important dimensions within which actors’ behaviour patterns are shaped, mediating how and whether actors will be successful in their attempts to negotiate with institutions or be seen as meeting those institutions’ evaluative criteria. To Bourdieu, social class, gender and ethnicity are categories essential to the division and organisation of social fields and the distribution of capital in many societies; as a result, capitals are divided unequally among groups, with ethnicity and gender functioning as important entryways to certain class positions.
  • 27 Bourdieu, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood Press.
  • 28 Ibid.