The similarities between this film and Mud are great enough to be worth noting. Both are films about teenage boys finding new, and enigmatic, father figures whilst facing problems (admittedly of a different magnitude) at home. Both are also set in poor communities in the southern United States and feature titular characters with a history of being in trouble with the law. This, however, is where the similarities end as Joe departs along a decidedly more depressing track that, despite being arguably more realistic in some respects, does not lead to it being a better film.
From the outset of the film when we meet Gary (played by Tye Sheridan, who also played the teenage lead in Mud and is superb in both) it is apparent that he has a difficult relationship with his dad. This is understandable given that the latter is an alcoholic with a violent streak who will let nothing come in the way of his next drink. This point, in case we missed it, is later underlined by the most graphically violent scene in the film. Gary’s dad, Wade, is brought to life by Gary Poulter (who was living on the streets of Austin, Texas when he was cast for the role and, sadly, has subsequently died) in a performance that is gripping and repulsive; this is a character with few redeeming characteristics.
By contrast, Joe (played in his usual cool style by Nicolas Cage) is a man with his heart in the right place despite his history of, and tendency towards, violence. We are introduced to him as he carries out a day’s work with his crew (poisoning trees so that the can be cleared and the land can be replanted with more valuable timber; a metaphor for the need to destroy in order to create something better?). The paths of the two main characters cross when Gary’s family roll into town and he comes to Joe looking for work. From there their friendship grows and as Gary learns what makes Joe tick so Joe learns about Gary’s family’s problems.
This part of the film is handled reasonably well and the dilemma facing Joe – whether he should intervene to protect Gary (and the rest of his family) from Wade when the risks to all involved are high – is an interesting one. As it turns out though, Joe ends up having little choice in the matter because, as is the case in Mud, the climax of the film centres on events that require action on his part. This narrative demand for some sort of issue to be resolved may be a flaw in both films but there is something that makes it additionally problematic in the case of Joe. Here we have a final act that, horrifying as it is, feels as if it’s just the last manifestation of how horrendous Wade is. It’s almost as if the whole film is saying ‘look, look how horrible this man is; not convinced yet? How about if he does this, do you hate him yet?’
Mud arguably has a finale that is too action packed but the film as a whole renders a well-rounded and interesting image of lives that have pain and problems but also love and tenderness. It’s not trying to set good against evil, it’s just telling a story of how a couple of teenagers deal with the imperfections in their lives as they grow up, and how this process relates to the entry of a new figure into those lives. By contrast, Joe relies on creating a character, in the form of Wade (not to mention the people he comes to associate with) that borders on pure evil. There’s little or no effort to show another side to that character or to explain why he has reached the point that he has; he simply serves as a terrible reality that must be escaped. Since I don’t believe in pure, unexplained, evil I find such a character difficult to be convinced by (and not, as noted above, because of any shortcoming in Poulter’s performance).
I’m not naive enough to believe that there aren’t people who do things as terrible as Wade does, or that life in poor communities in the southern United States isn’t tough. However, I often find films that seem to emphasise how horrible things are disengaging. This is why, generally, I prefer the work of Shane Meadows to that of Ken Loach. The latter hammers home his messages in a way that makes some of his films feel like lectures, whereas the former tells a story and trusts the audience to take the message away. This is England (one of my favourite films), like Mud, paints a rich picture of a community with good and bad and, in the form of Combo, has a deeply unpleasant character who we also understand and even, to an extent, sympathise with. Where Joe and Ken Loach show us poor people who are either sad and oppressed or angry and fighting, Mud and Shane Meadows show us humans who are sad, angry and violent, but also loving, funny and silly, as well as many other things. As such, they are no different from other humans. I find this more appealing and, ultimately, more convincing.
Joe is a deeply depressing film but it tells an interesting story and presents characters, in the form of Gary and Joe, who we can root for. Unfortunately, the world they inhabit feels too one-sided and, as such, they feel like observations in a social commentary rather than humans.
Sections: Introduction -> What is Political Participation? -> The Causes of Political Participation -> Inequality and Privilege -> Interim Observations -> Privilege and Capital -> Adapting Capital -> Reconciling Privilege and Political Participation -> The Importance of Perception -> Conclusion
This literature review began by identifying a major motivating conundrum for political behaviour research; why do people participate or not in political activity? Before addressing that conundrum it briefly presented a broad definition and a new typology of political participation, which is a semantic adaptation of the typology presented by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady. Their work was also presented as a convincing initial account of the processes that lead from background characteristics to political participation. Their explanation of the inequalities in that participation was argued to provide a link to the concept of privilege and the extensive literature relating to it.
In combination those literatures provided the causal approach adopted by the current research and suggested the possibility of accommodating the processes identified by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady within the concept of privilege. Nevertheless, they were also argued to lack a holistic theory of that concept and, as such, provide an incomplete account of its workings. Further, they were argued to overlook the internal perceptual processes that constitute a key factor linking privilege to political participation. It was thus specified that the aim of the subsequent sections was to present theory that can underpin a fuller understanding of those links and, in doing so, inform efforts to make democratic participation less unequal.
Moving on to the second half of the chapter, a holistic theory of privilege was provided by Pierre Bourdieu’s work on economic, social, and cultural capital. That work, and his in depth work on the nature of cultural capital and class competition, was taken to offer a convincing explanation of the workings of privilege. Key adaptations to Bourdieu’s work, rendering it relevant to the context of the contemporary United Kingdom, were identified with reference to the work of Tony Bennett and colleagues. Further, and in a more significant departure, it was argued that in focussing on political participation the current research should retain Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s approach to causality rather than Bourdieu’s. In that light the propositions of those two key texts were reconciled to provide an outline of the process that runs from background characteristics through privilege to political participation.
Moving beyond the structural focus on objective privilege, it was argued that there is a need to account for subjective privilege, which is based on perception of it. As such, having considered the uncertain causal implications of cognitive dissonance theory, it was argued that Daryl J. Bem’s self-perception theory is highly relevant. That theory suggests that individuals draw on the same external cues as those around them when perceiving their levels of privilege and political participation. The resultant perceptions have implications for subsequent behaviour. This is of particular importance because those perceptions, in part, stem from relevant group status. This suggested the relevance of social dominance theory, which posits a range of strategies that individuals can adopt to deal with low status. It also accommodates the observation that, despite those strategies, low status leads to worse outcomes for individuals and more so when it is perceived. Thus, it is considered likely that those who perceive their low status and the structural reasons for it will behave in particular ways. Indeed, they are likely to hold markedly different behavioural patterns than those who hold system justifying beliefs, which posit that inequality is not cause by structural factors.
In summary, this chapter has reconceptualised political participation, presented work on the mechanisms of privilege, reconciled it with work on the causal processes that lead to political participation, and introduced work on the perception of privilege. As such, it has laid the groundwork for hypotheses that link the independent variables of privilege and perception of it to the dependent variable of political participation. Those hypotheses will be developed in the next chapter, which will also present the mixed methods research design that is adopted by the current research.
Sections: Introduction -> What is Political Participation? -> The Causes of Political Participation -> Inequality and Privilege -> Interim Observations -> Privilege and Capital -> Adapting Capital -> Reconciling Privilege and Political Participation -> The Importance of Perception -> Conclusion
Sections: Introduction -> What is Political Participation? -> The Causes of Political Participation -> Inequality and Privilege -> Interim Observations -> Privilege and Capital -> Adapting Capital -> Reconciling Privilege and Political Participation -> The Importance of Perception -> Conclusion
The preceding sections have outlined in detail a process that leads from background characteristics to political participation and, in doing so, have provided an account of the workings of privilege. In considering such mechanisms the focus has been on the workings of structural influences at the individual level. Those influences are external to individuals and, thus, do not account for the internal processes that are also a crucial influence on outcomes. That is to say that what people think and feel is a critical additional link in the causal chain from background to behaviour. Thus, the previous sections have dealt with the key externally observable concepts that account for the workings of the overarching concept of privilege, and can thus be seen as an account of objective privilege. They do not account for subjective privilege, or the thoughts and feelings that people have about their backgrounds, how they relate to their current place in society, and their ability to participate in certain activities such as politics. Subjective privilege is thus based on perception.
Missing the perceptual component out of any account of the influence of privilege on political participation renders the causal chain incomplete, undermining any explanation. The impact of objective privilege is crucially related to whether it is perceived and how relevant it is seen to be in a given context. Ultimately, behaviour is not influenced only by structural forces but also by beliefs about those forces. A key reason for not participating in politics is the belief that one does not possess the requisite economic, social, or cultural capital to do so. Privilege itself may have a direct impact on political participation but that impact will be notably different if it is alive in the minds of individuals. Perception of privilege is thus important in its own right but also has the potential to improve our understanding of how privilege itself impacts on political participation.
Questions regarding the origins of perception, how it functions, and its effects have been a matter for philosophical debate and extensive psychological research. The focus of the current research is particularly on the components of perception that relate to relations and causality. Specifically, it is concerned with whether individuals perceive a societal hierarchy that encompasses them (relations), and what they perceive to be the reasons for that hierarchy and any effects it may have (causality). It has been argued that ‘[i]ndividual psychology and social inequality relate to each other like a lock and key.’ This is because there is a crucial relative component to inequality, with perception of the positions of others being based on perceptions of one’s own position. This recognition of the significance of self-comparison against others informed the development of relative measures of wealth and poverty. The relative component of inequality, though, does not just relate to economic measures and, in Britain, class labels and their associated places within a status hierarchy are of great importance. Relative placement is bound up with perception and has consequences for political participation. Thus, for the sake of clarity, the focus of this research is not on perception in general but specifically on the perception of privilege. It is necessary below to consider the workings of some more general components of perception, and the impact that they have, but only in so far as they inform our understanding of perception of privilege.
Survey evidence shows that in countries with a history of enforced equality the perception of conflict in society, especially between rich and poor, leads to lower support for democracy, and a reduced likelihood of participation in it. This is complemented by impressive survey evidence that negative information, for instance relating to conflict, is more important than positive information in the formation of political impressions and subsequent behaviour. Aggregate measures also show that higher inequality depresses voter turnout in democratic societies. Experimental evidence indicates that such disengagement may be underpinned by low power individuals heightening their perceptions of relationships between the powerful, perhaps because of anxiety stemming from the perceived threat of an outgroup. Heightened perceptions of power relations further up a hierarchy could contribute to the ‘paradox of distance’ in which voters can hold negative dispositions towards politicians in the abstract whilst being much more favourable to individual local politicians. At the same time, those of higher status tend to inflate their distance from those of lower status by perceiving more layers in the hierarchy, which may inhibit reconciliation between politicians and the voting public. This has led to calls for politicians to emphasise positions on issues that are of common benefit to all rather than focussing on specific group interests.
Perceptions of certain groups can act as barriers to their participation, with evidence suggesting that those who are excluded from social groups display a disparity between how others perceive them and their self-perception. Such excluded groups may be victims of stereotyping based on characteristics beyond their control, for instance family status. It was previously noted that stereotypes of women can lead to their exclusion from politics but gender is only one basis on stereotypes can affect status. Whatever their basis, as the importance of stereotypes increases they can create a culture of symbolic politics in which certain groups trigger affective responses in the population that can be played on by politicians.
In fact, affect as well as cognition has an important impact on how political information is processed and they can work together to influence outcomes. The relevance of both cognition-based calculations and affect-based expressive motivations in political behaviour has led to the proposition that individuals have an ‘all-things-considered evaluation’ that points to their preferred course of action. The importance of affect and, in particular, anxiety in defining behaviour are the focus of the theory of cognitive dissonance. That theory posits that individuals have relatively accurate, if imperfect, perceptions of reality and thus of disparities between any of their opinions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviours. The anxiety caused by the dissonance between those elements motivates people to bring them into line with each other, which they may do by changing their behaviour, their environment, or by seeking new information. Considerable evidence was marshalled to support the theory, for instance demonstrating that being asked to publicly advocate a position leads to a greater adherence to that position because beliefs are brought into line with behaviour in order to avoid dissonance. This corroborated evidence of a wider trend for individuals to bring their beliefs into line with their roles, be they in the work, social, or political context.
The theory of cognitive dissonance has been influential in the field of political psychology, particularly in relation to voters’ candidate preferences. Survey evidence has suggested that voters selectively perceive their preferred candidate’s policy positions, a phenomenon referred to as projection, to ensure that it matches their own. This is especially the case when they hold a positive affective disposition towards the candidate, when the candidate is ambiguous on the policy, and when the policy is important to the voter. The evidence that voters bring their beliefs, affective dispositions, and actions into balance has been used to counter claims that voters learn candidates’ positions from cues such as their party.
Despite its influence, the theory of cognitive dissonance is of limited use in the current research because it suffers from causal ambiguity with regard to, for instance, the negative relationship that may emerge between perception of privilege and political participation. The theory suggests that this could be the result of a process in which individuals perceive their low levels of privilege as inappropriate in political contexts, and bring their political behaviour into line with those perceptions. Alternatively, politically inactive people could justify their behaviour by bringing their beliefs into line with it, thus constructing a belief in the exclusionary importance of privilege in political contexts.
Countering cognitive dissonance theory, and providing a clearer causal proposition, is the self-perception theory of Daryl J. Bem. In Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, he suggests that the idea of cognitive dissonance holds sway with academics because they spend a large part of their lives considering the consistency of their theories. In its place he outlines an extensive theory of perception that begins with the identification of different levels of belief. ‘Zero-order beliefs’ are developed from the senses and ‘are the “nonconscious” axioms upon which our other beliefs are built’. For example, the belief that our senses do not lie, or that our parents do not lie, are zero-order beliefs. ‘First-order beliefs’ rely on zero-order ones and are based on information that is received from the sources that have been judged to be trustworthy. For example, identifying with a political party because one is brought up by parents who support it is a first order belief. Beyond first-order beliefs there is a vertical structure of higher-order beliefs, for example regarding the qualities of a policy proposed by a political party, all tracing their roots back to first- and zero-order ones. At the same time, Bem suggests that there are horizontal links between higher-order beliefs meaning that there can be multiple reasons for holding a belief. Crucially, he also posited that the order of a belief can change over time so that, for instance, if the reason for trusting a newspaper is forgotten (due to habitual readership) then that trust becomes a zero-order belief.
Based on the above ideas, Bem suggests that the links between beliefs require that they be cognitively consistent but that this does not mean that they must be logical or rational. This can be manifested in a number of ways, for instance if inductive generalisations are wrong, as with stereotypes. Alternatively, false premises may lead to false beliefs, for instance if an unreliable source is trusted. Higher-order beliefs may also be inconsistent despite shared bases, for instance if the fundamental belief in freedom leads to a contradiction in beliefs about protecting freedom with law. Finally, reasoning may be subtly illogical, for instance if correlation is identified as causation. Thus the drive to resolve logical inconsistency may not be as strong as previously suggested and the possibility emerges that people can sustain imbalance between beliefs and behaviour.
If dissonance is not the driver then an alternative explanation for the experimental results that support cognitive dissonance theory is required. In that light, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs marshals the same experimental evidence to support an alternative theory. It shows that external cues are used both in forming other’s perceptions of an individual and by the individual when forming their self-perceptions. Bem posits that self-perception is taught in childhood by parents, who diagnose internal conditions from external cues, for instance identifying soreness from bruising. Learning this process of diagnosis from their parents, people come to diagnose their own conditions based on external cues as well as internal ones. Hence, experiments have shown that when physiological responses are induced with drugs similar to adrenalin the resultant mood reflects the cues provided, which were varied to indicate anger or happiness. The importance of external cues was also demonstrated by experiments showing that obese people rely more on external than internal cues for their eating habits. Additionally, and finally, corroboration was provided by the experimental finding that attraction to semi-nude pictures altered depending on the pace of heartbeat on a recording, thought to be an amplification of the subject’s own heart.
In addition to reporting the above, Bem replicated experiments demonstrating that individuals change their opinions to match conditioned or paid behaviour that contradicts their initial opinions if the conditioning or payment is not too incongruous. Crucially, the experiments are also replicated with individuals observing the behaviour in others and building their perceptions on that basis, with the same perceptual outcomes. It is argued that individuals are not driven to resolve cognitive dissonance in relation to others, rather their perceptions and self-perceptions are based on the same external cues that others use to perceive them. This accommodates the importance of context and roles in defining behaviour. At the same time, the theory provides a link from external structural influences to internal influences and provides a clear causal process leading to behaviour.
In relation to the current research, self-perception theory suggests that individuals utilise the same indicators to perceive their levels of capital as do those around them. Thus, individuals are likely both to perceive the extent to which they are privileged and, using different cues, the extent to which they are involved in political activity. This suggests that those who are less privileged, who are also less likely to participate in political activity, are likely to think of themselves as ‘not political’ or to consider that politics is ‘not for them’. This is not just a process leading from external cues to perceptions; Bem did not deny that beliefs can also influence behaviour. Thus, once the belief that one cannot engage in political activity is established it is likely to contribute to and sustain disengagement. This is similar to the observation made by Brady, Schlozman, and Verba that motivations may be post-hoc rationalisations of behaviour but retain significance because of their capacity to influence future behaviour.
Crucially, the complex relationships between the three forms of capital, and the varying prominence of different types within each form, suggests that perceptions of capital will not be uniform. Different capital has relevance in different contexts and the significance of a certain type or form at a key formative stage of socialisation could influence persistent perceptions. In short, there is the possibility of variance in the relationship between privilege, perception of it, and political participation. This also has the potential to explain the different trends in participation in implicit and explicit political participation because people may perceive those activities, and thus their ability to participate in them, differently.
The above process leading from external structure to internal beliefs and then to subsequent behaviour fits within the molecular opinion structure proposed by Bem. This posits that a given belief is grouped with an attitude and a perception of social support. Again this proposal only relates to a structure, not to the content of any of its parts. Thus, a person who believes that they are not privileged, by Bem’s reckoning because they have observed external cues indicating as such, will feel a particular way about it and will seek other opinion that is supportive of that belief and feeling. This indicates that social groups can be important in maintaining beliefs, perceptions, and, as already noted, behaviour.
The importance of social groups is emphasised by social identity theory. That theory is based on experimental evidence suggesting the formation of group identity, and associated positive and negative emotions relating to in- and out-groups, independently of competition between groups for scarce resources. The process that leads to that group identity begins with social categorisation, or ‘the process through which separate individuals are clustered into groups.’ Subsequently social comparison is undertaken in which ‘characteristic group features are interpreted and valued.’ Finally, social identification leads to seeing one’s self as part of a given group to the extent that the features of the group become associated with the self. It is argued that social identification is an affective process, with the complement to this being the more cognitive self-categorisation theory. That theory posits that identification can occur at different levels of abstraction, for instance from the individual to the national. It further posits that self-categorisation depends on which other groups are salient, for instance influencing whether gender, ethnicity, class, nationality, or another grouping provides the basis for categorisation. The process depends not only on which groups are salient but also the size of the differences between them, meaning that categorisation is likely to be defined against the most different group. Thus, the process of self-categorisation means that patterns of assimilation and contrast stem from identification with or against the salient groups at the time.
The above again points to the importance of context and role in defining perceptions and, in particular, it suggests the relevance of group status. It has been shown that membership of a low status group, especially in contexts where that low status is salient, lowers self-esteem, aspirations, and performance. This can be linked to research suggesting that feelings of insecurity, which may be prompted by low status, make one less open to new ideas and settings. The power of low status can feed into patterns of self-verification, in which people seek information that affirms their perceived status, potentially leading to an ongoing cycle of low self-esteem, limited aspirations, and underperformance. The significant impact of low group status, and perception of that status, is important for the current research. Status is assigned on the basis not only of background characteristics but also of the associated levels of capital. This provides a direct link from privilege to group status and its associated behavioural implications.
The proposition that the negative feelings, such as anxiety, associated with low status lead to worse performance contradicts other theory that suggests the motivating impact of negative affect stemming from behaviour being inappropriate to the current setting. The important point to note here is the different bases for the negative emotions; in the latter instance it is behaviour or beliefs that are at stake but in the former it is the status of the individual, which is more fundamental. That is to say, it is rather more challenging to struggle with a low status that implies an overarching inferiority, especially if that status has been assigned from an early age, than it is to deal with current behaviour being inappropriate to a particular setting. This can be linked to Bem’s suggestion of zero-, first-, and higher-ordered beliefs; in the latter instance it is only higher order beliefs or behaviours that are being challenged whereas in the former it is a zero-order belief. Being in a context in which one’s own capacities and worth are identified as low affects not only the zero-order belief about one’s status but also, potentially, associated first- and higher-order beliefs.
The importance of low status the focus of social dominance theory, which identifies five different strategies for dealing with it. First, individuals may try defection from a group with low status, though this requires that the boundaries between groups are permeable or that they are able to disguise themselves. Second, they can be socially creative by redefining the grounds upon which groups are compared and selecting those that give their group high status. Third, retaining the current grounds that are used to assign status to groups, they can assert that their group’s current practice is high status. Fourth, they can identify lower groups against which they can compare themselves. Fifth and finally, they can choose to compete with higher status groups for a better position. Interestingly, these strategies echo features of Bourdieu’s market for cultural capital, in which the classes not only compete for cultural capital but also to define which cultural capital has value. Crucially, competition stemming from hierarchies can take place outside the cultural domain and it has been posited that aggression stemming from marginalisation can lead to political activity.
Beyond culture and politics, the general idea of group competition fits within the broader propositions of social dominance theory, which assumes that:
- Human social systems are predisposed to form group-based social hierarachies. This social hierarchy consists of at least one Hegemonic group at its top and at least one Negative Reference Group at its bottom. . . .
- Males will tend to possess a disproportionate degree of political power. We refer to this as the Iron Law of Andrarchy. . . .
- Most common forms of group conflict and oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, nationalism, classism) can be regarded as different manifestations of the same predisposition toward group-based social hierarchy.
- The formation of social hierarchy and primordial groups are survival strategies adopted by humans.
The result of the above assumptions is the assertion that there will always be hierarchies with negative reference groups at the bottom, and questions remain about the extent to which challenging such inequality will be fruitful. Part of the reason for the difficulty of challenging inequality is that there are those who defend the existing hierarchies, often amongst those who are in higher status groups or enforcement roles. Such people, who are disposed towards upholding the hierarchy, are referred to as having a high ‘social dominance orientation’.
According to social dominance theory, the maintenance of the hierarchy, in part by those with a high social dominance orientation, disempowers those with low status and restricts their options for action. This leads to behavioural asymmetry, in which:
on the average, the behavioral repertoires of individuals belonging to groups at different levels of the social hierarchy will show significant differences, differences that have been produced by the dynamics of and which, in turn, reinforce and perpetuate the group-based hierarchy system. This behavioural asymmetry is induced by socialization patterns, stereotypes, legitimization myths . . . , and the operation of systematic terror.
Thus, the hierarchy is sustained not only by the actions of those in enforcement roles or with high status but also, in part, by the behaviour of those with low status. In fact, social dominance theory suggests multiple different ways that behavioural asymmetry may manifest itself in high and low status groups. It may take the form of systematic out-group favouritism or deference amongst low status groups or, at the other end of the hierarchy, in-group bias. Alternatively, it may take the form of self-handicapping amongst low status groups, resulting in the lower performance noted previously. Finally, it may take the form of ideological asymmetry, in which the political ideology of a high-status group is more related to in-group favouritism than is the political ideology of a low-status group. Such behavioural patterns are based around perceptions of in- and out-groups that may become entrenched from an early age and lead to automatic associations, implying that it may be difficult for individuals to change the associated behavioural patterns.
In identifying ways in which unequal systems are maintained social dominance theory fits within a broader system justification theory, which posits that there are a range of beliefs that can be held to justify unequal systems. It has been argued that social dominance orientation functions as one of the main modes of system justifying alongside right-wing authoritarianism. Whilst the former is based around group competition, and the resultant right of high status groups to retain their earned position in the hierarchy, the latter is much more focussed on the threat posed by out-groups, with the in-group taken to be ‘normal, morally good, [and] decent’. It has been observed, based on survey evidence, that social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism function as separate spectrums in a similar fashion to the left-right and liberal-authoritarian political spectrums, which they may underpin. As such, there is the possibility that individuals may be high in social dominance orientation but low in right-wing authoritarianism, vice versa, high in both, or high in neither.
Being high in either social dominance orientation or right-wing authoritarianism means that one holds system justifying beliefs. One of the forms that such beliefs frequently take is the ‘fundamental attribution error’ in which the low status of others is seen to be the result of their failings whilst one’s own successes are considered to be due to hard work. Thus, those adhering to the error assign low status groups characteristics such as laziness, lack of worth ethic, or lack of money management skills. Such beliefs are associated with the background characteristics of those who hold them but are also sustained through their prevalence in society at large. As such, it has been argued that:
those who make external attributions have overcome the fundamental attribution error, the dominant ideology of individualism, the dearth of coherent philosophical justification for egalitarianism, and a noticeable lack of forthright political leadership.
Thus, in ‘explaining differences in the distribution of social and material goods in terms of differences in individual effort, talent, and merit and by holding people responsible for their outcomes’ system justifying beliefs are here considered to exist in opposition to perception of privilege, which requires recognition of systemic causes of inequality. This opposition is of particular relevance to the current research because system justifying beliefs have been found to relate to lower involvement in political activity. Such beliefs are not only held by those with high status, and it is possible that the extent of disengagement from politics differs between individuals of varying statuses. This also suggests that the impact of perception of privilege may differ across different status groups, an idea that will be developed in subsequent chapters.
In summary, the combination of Bem’s self-perception theory and theories related to group identity and status suggest an important role for perception of privilege in influencing political participation. It has been posited that individuals perceive their status in a hierarchy, albeit imperfectly, based on the same cues that others use to assign a status to them. At the same time, they perceive their status as a ‘political person’ from their activities in that area. To the extent that those activities are influenced by their social status the latter perception will be a reflection of their perception of that status. To the extent that they influence subsequent behaviour both perceptions will feed into future political participation. This is particularly important for low status groups that not only face structural barriers but, upon perceiving their low status, are also likely to respond with less effective behaviour. Even when successfully adopting strategies to overcome low status, for instance in the form of competition with other groups, low status groups may not fundamentally challenge the hierarchy itself. Since, as is argued in previous sections, background characteristics are an important influence on status and since hierarchies are widespread it is likely that perception of status begins at an early age. Despite those early origins the perception of status does not necessarily entail perception of the reasons for that status. This is a crucial focus for the current research, which is concerned with the perception of role of background characteristics in defining status and that perception’s impact on political participation.
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 David O. Sears, ‘Symbolic Politics: A Socio-Psychological Theory’, in Shanto Iyengar and William J. McGuire (eds.), Explorations in Political Psychology (Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1993), pp. 113-146.
 Robert S. Wyer, Jr., and Victor C. Ottati, ‘Political Information Processing’, in Iyengar and McGuire, Explorations in Political Psychology, pp. 264-293, p. 282.
 Alan Hamlin and Colin Jennings, ‘Expressive Political Behavior: Foundations, Scope and Implications’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jun., 2011), pp. 645-670, pp. 667-669.
 Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1957), pp. 9-11.
 Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, pp. 19-24.
 Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, pp. 104-112.
 Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, pp. 271-275.
 Drury R. Sherrod, ‘Selective Perception of Political Candidates’, The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Winter, 1971-1972), pp. 554-562.
 Michael D. Martinez, ‘Political Involvement and the Projection Process’, Political Behaviour, Vol. 10, No. 2 (1988), pp. 151-167.
 Donald Granberg, Jeff Kasmer, and Tim Nanneman, ‘An Empirical Examination of Two Theories of Political Perception’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Mar., 1988), pp. 29-46; Pamela Johnston Conover and Stanley Feldman, ‘Projection and the Perception of Candidates’ Issue Positions’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jun., 1982), pp. 228-244; Donald Granberg, ‘An Anomaly in Political Perception’, The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Winter, 1985), pp. 504-516.
 Daryl J. Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs (Belmont, CA, Brooks/Col Publishing, 1970), p. 34.
 Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 6-7.
 Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 10-11.
 Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 11-12.
 Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, p. 13.
 Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, p. 34; Donald Granberg, ‘Political Perception’, in Iyengar and McGuire, Explorations in Political Psychology, pp. 70-108, p. 89.
 Bem, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 48-53.
 Daryl J. Bem, ‘Self-Perception: An Alternative Interpretation of Cognitive Dissonance Phenomena’, Psychological Review, Vol. 74, No. 3 (May, 1967), pp. 183-200.
 Bem, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 66-69.
 Bem, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 38-39.
 Naomi Ellemers and S. Alexander Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, in Paul A. M. Van Lange, Arie W. Kruglanski, and E. Tory Higgins (eds.), Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology (Volume 2, London, Sage Publications, 2012), pp. 379-393, pp. 379-380.
 Ellemers and Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 381.
 Ellemers and Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 381.
 Ellemers and Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 382.
 Ellemers and Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 389.
 Ellemers and Haslam, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 388; see also John C. Turner and Katherine J. Reynolds, ‘Self-Categorization Theory’, in Van Lange, Kruglanski, and Higgins, Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, pp. 400-414.
 Wilkinson and Pickett, The Spirit Level, pp. 36-39; Laurie T. O’Brien and Brenda Major, ‘Group Status and Feelings of Personal Entitlement: The Roles of Social Comparison and System-Justifying Beliefs’, in John T. Jost, Aaron C. Kay, and Hulda Thorisdottir (eds.), Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 427-439, pp. 429-430; Turner and Reynolds, ‘Self-Categorization Theory’, p. 410; Chris D. Hardin, Rick M. Cheung, Michael W. Magee, Steven Noel, and Kasumi Yoshimura, ‘Interpersonal Foundations or Ideological Thinking’, in Hanson, Ideology, Psychology, and Law, pp. 132-159, pp. 136-137.
 Geoffrey L. Cohen, ‘Identity, Belief, and Bias’, in Hanson, Ideology, Psychology, and Law, pp. 385-403, pp. 391-397.
 William B. Swann, Jr., ‘Self-Verification Theory’, in Van Lange, Kruglanski, and Higgins, Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, pp. 25-38.
 George E. Marcus, W. Russell Neuman and Michael McKuen, Affective Intelligence and Political Judgement (Chicago, University of Chicago Press), pp. 48-58.
 James Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression: A Social Dominance Perspective’, in Iyengar and McGuire, Explorations in Political Psychology, pp. 184-218, pp. 191-192.
 Russell J. Dalton, Manfred Kuechler, and Wilhelm Bürklin, ‘The Challenge of New Movements’ in Russell J. Dalton and Manfred Kuechler (eds.) Challenging the Political Order: New Social and Political Movements in Western Democracies (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1990), pp. 3-20, pp. 6-7; Edward N. Muller, Aggressive Political Participation (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 180-182; Karl-Dieter Opp, ‘Grievances and Participation in Social Movements’, American Sociological Review, Vol. 53, No. 6 (Dec., 1988), pp. 853-864.
 Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression’, pp. 196-197.
 Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression’, pp. 215-218.
 Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression’, p. 214; James Sidanius and Felicia Pratto, ‘Social Dominance Theory’, in Van Lange, Kruglanski, and Higgins, Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, pp. 418-434, pp. 419-420.
 Sidanius and Pratto, ‘Social Dominance Theory’, p. 430.
 Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression’, p. 202.
 Sidanius, ‘The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression’, pp. 202-207.
 Uhlman, Poehlman, and Nosek, ‘Automatic Associations’, pp. 228-260.
 James Duckitt and Chris G. Sibley, ‘A Dual Process Motivational Model of Ideological Attitudes and System Justification’, in Jost, Kay, and Thorisdottir, Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification, pp. 293-308, pp. 307-308.
 Duckitt and Sibley, ‘A Dual Process Motivational Model of Ideological Attitudes and System Justification’, p. 296; Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, pp. 17-19; Anthony Heath, Geoffrey Evans, and Jean Martin, ‘The Measurement of Core Beliefs and Values: The Development of Balance Socialist/Laissez Faire and Libertarian/Authoritarian Scales’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 115-132, p. 117; Brian A. Nosek, Mahzarin R. Banaji, and John T. Jost, ‘The Politics of Intergroup Attitudes’, in Jost, Kay, and Thorisdottir, Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification, pp. 480-504, p. 481;
 Kathleen Knight, ‘In Their Own Words: Citizens’ Explanations of Inequality Between the Races’, in Jon Hurwitz and Mark Peffley (eds.), Perception and Prejudice: Race and Politics in the United States (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 202-232, pp. 210-213.
 Knight, ‘In Their Own Words’, p. 221.
 Knight, ‘In Their Own Words’, p. 228.
 O’Brien and Major, ‘Group Status and Feelings of Personal Entitlement’, p. 432.
 Carolyn L. Hafer and Becky L. Choma, ‘Belief in a Just World, Perceived Fairness, and Justification of the Status Quo’, in Jost, Kay, and Thorisdottir, Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification, pp. 107-119, p. 109.
Both Voice and Equality and the complementary work on the representation of wealthy constituents interests and opinions were based on research conducted in the United States of America. Whether those findings translate to the context of contemporary Britain is a question that the current research hopes to shed some light on. The civic voluntarism model, however, is not made explicitly relevant to the concept of privilege that is argued to be of particular significance in the United Kingdom. This suggests the utility of reconciling the two major approaches that have been drawn on so far. This will allow the current research to identify the three forms of capital as the mechanisms through which privilege works but, at the same time, adopt the causal approach and focus on political participation of the civic voluntarism model. Thus, it is necessary, reasonable, and intuitively satisfying to reconcile Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s model with Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of economic, social, and cultural capital.
First, Bourdieu’s economic capital clearly encompasses the money component of Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s concept of resources. Of course, and as noted previously, money does not come only from income but also from wealth (i.e. a stock of assets that is exchangeable into money or provides earnings), which also contributes to unequal outcomes. Thus, economic capital is here taken to be an amalgamation of wealth and income, and to include the money component of the concept of resources from the civic voluntarism model. It is also taken to incorporate the time component of resources, though it is a more unusual component in terms of its relationship with background characteristics. Time is structured along different lines from income and wealth, and has interesting relationships with each. Increasing income may be negatively related to free time if it is the result of more work but positively related to an increase in wealth if it implies that income from work becomes less critical. Time is also arguably heavily related to family structure, with traditional divides in housework and child rearing being based on gender. Thus, whilst time is marked by its relationships with the other components of economic capital, the nature of those relationships is complex.
The influence of background characteristics on economic capital is apparent; its transfer from one generation to another is likely to sustain that structures that existed in the previous generation. By definition, wealth that is transferred to children from parents remains in the hands of those with the same or similar background characteristics. At the same time, the persistence of income differences between groups, in part due to time constraints imposed by factors such as housework and child rearing, complements wealth transfer in structuring economic capital by background characteristics.
Second, Bourdieu’s cultural capital encompasses the bulk of the components of the model presented in Voice and Equality. Civic skills, which stem from education (itself a key component of cultural capital) and ongoing engagement with employment and voluntary contexts, both enable participation and act as a qualification to do so. They are also likely to deliver the kind of self-assured manner in a political setting that Bourdieu identified. Thus, civic skills both enable individuals to participate and mark them out as able to others. Similarly, the components of engagement act as cultural qualifications that incline those who possess them to political activity and suggest to others that they are competent to do so. Being interested in politics, believing that one can effectively engage with the political system, and holding political information are signifiers of political competence that assure the self and others. Party identification is less necessary for political participation and despite its well-documented decline remains widespread, perhaps because of its utility in the most prevalent form of political participation, voting. Nevertheless, party identification is here taken to be part of cultural capital along with the other components of engagement, civic skills, and Bourdieu’s originally posited cultural tastes, habits, and activities. Crucially, all of these element share a common origin in that they stem from socialisation. This concept is of wide significance but is particularly relevant to cultural capital, and can be defined as:
“the process by which persons acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that make them more or less able members of their society” (Brim 1966, p. 3). Socialization does not include all formative processes experienced by individuals. It is limited to those associated with acquired characteristics (and thus it excludes qualities evolving through biological maturation) which have social significance (and thus excludes individual differences that are not systematically relevant to social functioning).
It is socialisation that, as Verba, Schlozman, and Brady note, functions both in early years and in impressionable adolescence, transferring cultural capital between generations, to form Bourdieu’s habitus. It may be less homologous than he posited but it encompasses patterns in civic skills and engagement that are structured, through socialisation, by background characteristics.
Finally, Bourdieu’s approach to social capital is notably different from that famously adopted by Robert Putnam when documenting the decline in aggregate levels of social participation in the United States. Bourdieu’s definition focuses on who individuals know and, implicitly, what they can expect from those relationships. It is relatively easy to reconcile this with Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s concept of recruitment if it is accepted that social capital also relates to the requests that are likely to come from the people who one knows. This is not a great leap; different acquaintances will have different habits of their own so requests for participation will differ depending on who one knows. This means that, like the social capital that they stem from, requests are structured by background characteristics. Thus, social capital is here taken to be not only the number of social connections that one has but also the status of the people to whom one has connections, and the strength of those connections based on what can be expected of them.
The maintenance of that structuring through the transfer of social capital between generations is easily comprehended; parents can offer introductions to fellow members of organisations, family friends, or colleagues. At a less explicit but more fundamental level the parental role in choosing schools, supporting extra-curricular activities, and, in some cases, vetoing friendships all play a part in defining the social networks in which people find themselves. The social skills developed in those networks then influence the networks that develop once one strikes out and leaves home, not least if one attends university (which is, again, a decision often influenced by parents).
To summarise, it is relatively simple to reconcile the civic voluntarism model proposed by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady with the three forms of capital proposed by Bourdieu. For ease of reference Table 2, presented below, maps the components of the former onto the latter. This exercise is critical for the current research because it reconciles work on the key concepts of privilege and political participation by positing a path that leads from background characteristics through inheritance, socialisation, and networks to the economic, cultural, and social capital, which encompass resources, engagement, and recruitment as proposed in the civic voluntarism model.
Table 2 – Mapping the Civic Voluntarism Model onto the Three Forms of Capital
 Atkinson, The Economics of Inequality, pp. 157-167; Pfeffer and Hällsten, ‘Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth’, p. 21.
 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality, pp. 291-294; Bennett et al. Culture, Class, Distinction, pp. 60-61.
 Mair and van Biezen, ‘Party Membership in Twenty European Democracies’, pp. 5-21.
 Kerckhoff, ‘Family Position, Peer Influences, and Schooling’, p. 94.
 M. Kent Jennings, ‘Political Socialization’, in Dalton and Klingemann, The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior, pp. 29-44.
 Robert D. Putnam, ‘Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital’, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 65-78.
 Jan E. Leighley, ‘Attitudes, Opportunities and Incentives: A Field Essay on Political Participation’, Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 181-209, pp. 189-191.
There have, of course, been critiques of Bourdieu’s theories, not least stemming from those adhering to economically based definitions of class.
More relevant than those critiques, however, is an impressive work in which Bourdieu’s theories were applied to research into class in the United Kingdom, with the result that certain key adaptations to those theories were proposed. In Culture, Class, Distinction, Tony Bennett and colleagues set out three key questions:
Our first question . . . is to assess whether we can detect cultural capital in contemporary Britain, and if so, to delineate what form it takes.
. . .
Our second question . . . is whether different cultural fields, namely in the worlds of music, reading, art, television and film viewing, and sport are structured along similar principles, and if so, what is the nature of the similarities between them?
. . .
Our third question is to what extent we can see a process whereby established middle-class groups are advantaged by the organisation of cultural forms, and how similar processes inform the ordering and reproduction of the relations between genders and ethnic groups.
In addressing those question they adopt a similar mix of research methods to Bourdieu to inform their description of the different British classes’ tastes and levels of participation in areas including music, print news, art, books, television, cinema, sport, clothing, and eateries. Unsurprisingly, since the research is in a different country and at a different time, they find notably different cultural capital profiles, not least because new forms of entertainment such as television have become relevant. Despite this, they retain the three-class model for the contemporary United Kingdom whilst noting some overlap between those classes. Most importantly, they find differences in the structure of the cultural capital held by the various classes in contemporary Britain.
The first departure from Bourdieu is the in the identification of the decline in the power of legitimate culture in the United Kingdom. It seems that the struggle to define the value of particular forms of cultural capital in the market has resulted in a situation in which the value of almost all forms is accepted, or at least not dismissed. In fact, the research repeatedly finds that people are keen to avoid the label of ‘snob’ and are thus hesitant to pass judgement on any form of cultural capital in which they are not interested. There are some exceptions with, for instance, particular genres of music provoking strong positive or negative reactions but the trend towards, if not acceptance, then tolerance of diverse cultural forms prevails. Thus, Bourdieu’s posited hierarchy of types of cultural capital is of less relevance with the value of capital varying with context. For instance, familial social capital is found to have continuing greater significance for working class people than for their middle or upper class counterparts and, to an extent, substitutes for the more confined cultural tastes and lower levels of cultural participation noted below.
Extending the above, the second adaptation to Bourdieu that Bennett et al. identify relates to the diversity of cultural forms consumed. It seems that, beyond mere tolerance, it has become a badge of honour to maintain diverse tastes, leading to the emergence of the phenomenon of the ‘cultural omnivore’. In fact, such wide-ranging cultural preferences seem to act as a new form of distinction; in contemporary Britain it is not important to be familiar with particular cultural forms but to know, like, and be comfortable with a large range of such forms. This finding is suggestive of prioritisation of liberal values such as tolerance amongst classes that have begun to deprioritise economic concerns as they enter ‘postmaterialism’. In fact, the extent of the phenomenon has led the authors to suggest that part of the reason for a decline in the distinctiveness of working class culture is that many components of it have been co-opted by middle and upper class cultural omnivores. This is a significant break from Bourdieu’s findings, which identified a disinterested analytical approach to culture, rather than a willingness to engage in many cultural contexts, as the measure of distinction. In fact, it seems that only one group in the contemporary United Kingdom has retained a cultured detachment from their consumption habits, namely the elite. The distinctiveness of the upper echelons is maintained by some cultural forms that have not diffused downwards, such as classical music and opera, though these are now the exceptions rather than the rule.
Bennett et al. repeatedly find that an identifiable British elite breaks with the tenor of their observations, for instance regarding the declining importance of legitimate culture. This small group of senior people in various fields continues to consume cultural forms identified as markers of distinction by Bourdieu, as well as holding a more stringent information-focussed approach to newer forms of entertainment such as television. The social circles in which such people move allow them to maintain their relationships with other members of the elite, potentially working in other organisations or sectors than themselves. The fact that the elite seems to be identifiable and detached has important implications for the current research, especially since national politicians are likely to fall within that group. If the upper echelons of society are particularly different from the majority of the population, and can be seen as such, this may detach them from the public and create barriers to engagement.
Notwithstanding the elites, it is wide-ranging cultural tastes that maintain distinction in the contemporary United Kingdom, though other patterns are also significant. In their third adaptation to Bourdieu, Bennett et al. note that the volume of participation in cultural activities outside the home is a key means by which to differentiate the classes. Thus it is that, although they cannot be easily characterised with reference to particular cultural tastes, the middle and upper classes are more likely than the working classes to attend events and venues associated with their cultural interests. In many instance the ability to participate reflects access to greater levels of economic capital but in all cases frequent participation helps to maintain cultural profiles.
Building on the identification of changes in the structure of cultural preferences the next adaptation proposed by Bennett et al. is more fundamental. Noting that one of the major critiques of Bourdieu has been his failure to adequately account for the impact of gender, and that he was unable to consider the impact ethnicity due to data restrictions, they argue that other factors contribute extensively to the formation of cultural capital. Throughout Class, Culture, Distinction, they find evidence that, whereas Bourdieu accommodated such factors within an overarching class analysis, gender, ethnicity, and age actually interact with class to create a diverse array of cultural capital profiles in the United Kingdom. The significant impact of all these factors suggests the utility of adopting a concept, such as privilege, that can accommodate all of those relationships.
The replacement of class with privilege as the focus of research can also address the next adaptation to Bourdieu that Bennett et al. suggest. In recognising the complexity of the terrain of cultural capital in contemporary Britain, and accepting the role of a number of factors on that terrain, they provide the basis to critique the problem of class determinism. Whilst Bourdieu challenged the economic determinism of Marxist theories it is class that retains a central role in his analysis. In particular he presented habitus not only as the possession of particular tastes in the various cultural fields but also as the homology between those tastes. That is to say, he posited that the structure of relations between classes is the same across all of the fields of cultural capital. By contrast, their findings allow Bennett et al. to conclude:
While we find the notion of class habitus unhelpful, we agree with him [Bourdieu] that cultural proclivities are closely associated with social class; the three classes that we inductively generated from our cultural maps transcend particular occupational positions. This does not, however, produce exclusive, highly integrated and unified patterns of class behaviour; perhaps it is more useful to see classes as force fields, within the parameters of which individuals vary, though within limits.
In rejecting the assertion of homology across the fields of cultural capital that comprise the habitus they are providing scope for individual choice. This adaptation to Bourdieu is crucial for the current research because it allows for the possibility that perceptions are a part of such individual choices.
To summarise, in Culture, Class, Distinction, Bennett et al. retain a fundamentally Bourdieusian analysis but make some important adaptations based on empirical observations that render his theories applicable to contemporary Britain. In answering their three motivating questions they find, first, that cultural capital does exist in that setting and that it varies across the classes. However, they find that the cultural capital profiles of the different classes are notably different from those observed in 1960s France. Crucially, in answering their second question, they find that there is a less deterministic relationship between fields of cultural capital than that posited by Bourdieu, thus challenging the assertion that they are homologous. Third, they find that the decline in the significance of legitimate culture has blurred the hierarchy of the classes in terms of cultural capital. Instead, those in the higher classes have a tendency to have become cultural omnivores, marked by their diverse tastes and frequent participation in an array of activities. Crucially, and also in answering their third question, they find that trends in cultural tastes and practices are not only structured by class but also by sex, race, and age.
In challenging Bourdieu’s overly-deterministic approach to the relationship between class and capital, Bennett et al. lay the foundations for the adoption of the broader concept of privilege by the current research. Privilege sits between the various identified background characteristics, as well as others, and the unequal societal outcomes with which they are associated. It encompasses the socialisation process by which different capital profiles are transmitted, and can be seen as the mechanism through which background characteristics are translated into advantage or disadvantage. Thus, privilege can accommodate the impact of class, sex, race, sexuality, age, religion, disability, and location as they influence the capital profile of each individual and thus the outcomes that are likely for them. This is adoption of privilege over class as the focus of the research is the first major departure from the Bourdieusian theory that informs it.
The second major departure from Bourdieu is in its focus on testing causality. As noted previously, Bourdieu adopts a highly descriptive approach and, in utilising correspondence analysis, focuses to a great degree on mapping the distribution of, and associations between, the forms of cultural capital. Of course, Bourdieu’s is a class analysis and, as such, fundamentally asserts a causal process leading from class to homologous profiles across the various fields of cultural capital. However, the focus of the work is not on testing or assessing that causal process but on describing its results. His use of survey data does not imply the testing of hypotheses and, in fact, it is almost deployed in a confirmatory manner.
Similarly, although they recognise the importance of sex, race, and age alongside class in defining cultural profiles, Bennett et al. do not test those causal relationships. This thick descriptive approach stands in contrast to the highly detached approaches to assessing causality that are adopted by social science researchers who are more informed by practice in the discipline of economics. Such approaches, often deployed in analyses of inequality, tend to test the aggregate level impact of concepts such as supply and demand, or focus on economic calculations at the individual level.
Taking an approach that draws both on Bourdieu and contemporary social science the current research focuses on testing individual level causal processes. In particular, it is concerned with the process that runs from background characteristics through privilege to political participation. This is arguably a subversion of the Bourdieusian concepts of economic, social, and cultural capital. However, as outlined in the above section considering the literature that has adopted and tested those concepts, this will not be the first time that they have been put to that use. Crucially, it is also considered worthwhile to build on the rich and important descriptive work undertaken by Bourdieu and Bennett et al. by testing the causal impact of the processes that work through the forms of capital. This causal approach is much closer to that adopted by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady and outlined previously. Thus, this research is not concerned with the dispersion of capital per se, but with its origins and effects.
Despite the adoption of a different causal approach it remains the case that Bourdieu, as adapted by Bennett et al., provides the holistic theory of privilege that was lacking in the previously reviewed literature on the concept. In doing so it provides the first main focus for the current research; the link from privilege as it is embodied in the three forms of capital to political participation. This is posited to be a more illuminating relationship than that between background characteristics and political participation because privilege is more than merely a summary of those characteristics. The forms three forms of capital, which indicate privilege, are rich in detail and indicate the particular circumstances of each individual in a way that simply observing their background characteristics cannot. Habits, preferences, and understandings are undoubtedly affected by those characteristics but they also suggest how a person was brought up, and they encompass the key factors that were identified by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady as influencing political participation.
 Tony Bennett, Mike Savage, Elizabeth Silva, Alan Warde, Modesto Gayo-Cal, and David Wright, Culture, Class, Distinction (London, Routledge, 2009), pp. 12-14.
 Bennett et al., Culture, Class, Distinction, pp. 47-48, p. 76, pp. 90-93, p. 98, pp. 106-109, p. 114, p. 121, p. 132, p. 136, p. 140-141, p. 144, pp. 155-157, p. 162, pp. 164-166,
 Bennett et al., Culture, Class, Distinction, p. 254, p. 22, p. 132, p. 149.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 55.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 38, p. 56, p. 75, p. 205, p. 255.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 59, p. 70, p. 111, p. 186, p. 189, p. 194, p. 211, p. 256.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 79.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 71.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 18.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 88, p. 172, p. 194, p. 255.
 Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1997), p. 22, p. 35, p. 39.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 212.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 253.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 76, p. 84, pp. 189-190, p. 253.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, pp. 92-9, p. 135.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 90, p. 122, p. 190, p. 253.
 Hywel Williams, Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of a Ruling Class (London, Constable, 2006), pp. 220-222; George Walden, The New Elites: Making a Career in the Masses (London, The Penguin Press, 2000), pp. 206-207; Sue Cameron, The Cheating Classes: How Britain’s Elite Abuses their Power (London, Simon & Schuster, 2002), p. 243-251.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 43.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 52, p. 114, p. 160, p. 168.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 140, p. 165.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 214, pp. 234-235.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, pp. 2-3, p. 43, pp. 52-53, p. 82, p. 105, p. 130, p. 133, p. 142, p. 147, p. 156, p. 160, p. 168, p. 171, p. 216, p. 221, p. 222, p. 237, p. 249.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 18, p. 27.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 470.
 Bennett et al., Class, Culture, Distinction, p. 252.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 78-79, p. 202, p. 241, pp. 245-246, pp. 265-270, pp. 374-379.
Theories relating to the workings of inherited advantage or disadvantage are numerous and have extended to account for the workings of privilege over the whole course of human history. The goal here, however, is to seek an overarching theory of the mechanisms of privilege in modern society. In that light it is useful to refer to the impressive work of Pierre Bourdieu, who posited that privilege works through three forms of capital that can be held by individuals:
capital can present itself in three fundamental guises: as economic capital, which is immediately and directly convertible into money and may be institutionalized in the form of property rights; as cultural capital, which is convertible, on certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the form of educational qualification; and as social capital, made up of social obligations (“connections”), which is convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the form of a title or nobility.
The above provides a concise summary of Bourdieu’s approach to capital but his work is extensive and rich enough to warrant more in-depth consideration. In particular, his seminal work, Distinction, is full of fascinating thick description of the cultural capital possessed by people of different classes in 1960s France. Based on a mix of sources including survey data, interviews, and photographs, the description of his subjects encompasses their musical tastes, artistic preferences, choice of literature, home decoration, trips to the theatre and cinema, food preferences and body shape, clothing and appearance, favoured sports, use of language and speech patterns, and choice of newspaper. In each of these areas there are ‘legitimate’, ‘middle-brow’, and ‘popular’ tastes, which are more or less widespread and accessible.
Beyond the presentation of detailed descriptive content Bourdieu used Distinction to posit a cultural market in which there is competition not only to obtain capital but also to define which capital is most legitimate. This competition is partly an effort to obtain the best rates for the cultural capital held when exchanging it into economic capital, but also to assert the opposition between cultural capitals and superiority of some forms over others. This struggle for superiority is a manifestation of the class struggle that motivated Bourdieu’s work, and it led to an original conception of class relations. He posited that class is not defined only in economic terms but also in relation to the other two forms of capital, though the cultural form was the focus of Distinction. The introduction of these other elements of class allowed him to expand upon purely economic definitions of the concept as posited by Karl Marx.
Bourdieu’s analysis included additional complexity because he focussed not only on the volume but also the composition of capital that was held by different classes. This theory was well suited to the correspondence analysis that he undertook, which allowed him to differentiate between fractions within the dominant and dominated classes. Amongst the bourgeoisie he profiled the cultural and economic distinctions between old industrialists and new entrepreneurs. Similarly, within the middle class he distinguished between the professionals and the petty bourgeoisie, and even within the working class between more and less politically aware fractions. Thus he maintained the division between the dominant and the dominated classes and, at the same time, accommodated the complexity of relations within them by positing that fractions vie for dominance over each other. He also accepted that other structural factors such as sex, age, and location could affect the capital held by individuals, though such factors were accommodated within the overarching analysis of class competition. Thus, for Bourdieu, social class is not defined by a single property ‘but by the structure of relations between all the pertinent properties which gives its specific value to each of them and to the effects they exert on practices.’
Bourdieu’s focus on the structure of relations between the volume and composition of capital held by different classes was expressed through his proposition of the concept of habitus, in which ‘all the practices and products of a given agent are objectively harmonized among themselves, without any deliberate pursuit of coherence, and objectively orchestrated, without any conscious concertation, with those of all members of the same class.’ Since it is an original concept that was developed by Bourdieu, it is useful to give two examples of how he applied it, in this instance in relation to the different manners of classes in their homes. For him, the bourgeoisie expresses:
a habitus of order, restraint, and propriety which may not be abdicated. . . . It is also a whole relationship to animal nature, to primary needs and the populace who indulge them without restraint; it is a way of denying the meaning and primary function of consumption, which are essentially common.
By contrast, the working class habitus stands for:
sincerity, for feeling, for what is felt and proved in actions; it is the free-speech and language of the heart which make the true “nice guy”, blunt, straightforward, unbending, honest, genuine, “straight down the line” and “straight as a die”, as opposed to everything that is pure form, done only for form’s sake; it is freedom and the refusal of complications, as opposed to respect for all the forms and formalities spontaneously perceived as instruments of distinction and power.
For the sake of clarity, and since it is a complex concept, habitus is here understood to be the totality of and connections between all of the habits, preferences, and understandings possessed by virtue of being socialised into a particular class.
One of the key means by which such socialisation occurs is education, which Bourdieu describes as institutionalised or formalised cultural capital. Education is thus a means by which to transmit advantage and, as such, is closely linked to background. The possession of advantage resulting from education can lead to a sense of qualification to engage with topics such as politics, which is of particular relevance to the current research. Crucially, the sense of qualification to talk on topics is part of a wider confidence that is imbued by the transmission of cultural capital through both formal and informal means. Such confidence is expressed in relation not just to politics but in a whole host of settings in which ‘[i]t confers the self-certainty which accompanies the certainty of possessing cultural legitimacy, and the ease which is the touchstone of excellence’. This ease is communicated not only through words but also a manner of being:
What is learnt through immersion in a world in which legitimate culture is as natural as the air one breathes is a sense of the legitimate choice so sure that it convinces by the sheer manner of the performance, like a successful bluff.
Such confidence is linked not only to one’s habitus but also to the trajectory that results from the current combination of capital, and people are additionally classified by whether they are seen to have upward mobility. In fact, part of the competition between classes is around the creation of high status jobs that fit the capital profiles, including educational qualifications, of their members to ensure that their trajectory is positive.
To summarise, Bourdieu’s work in Distinction, which is commonly cited as one of the most important books of twentieth century sociology, presents a complex and original theory of class. He posits that it is about more than mere economics and proposes that the market in which the classes compete is based around the volume and composition of both economic and cultural capital (with social capital considered subsequently). Thus, whilst accepting the fundamental divide between dominant and dominated classes, he describes the contending factions of the bourgeoisie, the middle class, and the working class. From that description he develops a new concept, habitus, to summarise the relationship between all of the habits, preferences, and understandings possessed by each class. Habitus is linked to future status through trajectory and is communicated through, amongst other things, formal educational qualifications and a general sense of confidence. Crucially, he achieves all of the preceding based on a rich descriptive account of class in 1960s France that draws on a range of quantitative and qualitative data. As such, in addition to his engaging, powerful, and important theoretical contributions, Bourdieu can be seen as an early proponent of mixed methods research.
Focussing on his theoretical importance, Bourdieu’s impact has been reflected in the extent of the literature related to the three forms of capital. Recent research has utilised impressive survey and census data to show that economic capital in the form of parental wealth is at least equal in significance to parental income in affecting children’s educational attainment and future occupations. It is posited that wealth provides an insurance function allowing children to make riskier educational decisions such as choosing long or expensive courses without concern for the costs of failure. The findings apply across mobility regimes characterised by the different educational, social welfare, and redistributive systems in the United States, Germany and Sweden. In the United Kingdom, wealth is related to an array of important outcomes including infant mortality, educational attainment, anxiety levels, obesity rates, alcohol and tobacco consumption, drug use, and life expectancy. The importance of wealth in influencing outcomes also relates to government policy towards job creation and social services, which it has been argued should complement local community action.
Social capital stemming from privilege has been identified most explicitly in the transition from school to university. In the United States elite schools lobby through well established links with university admissions offices to ensure that the playing field is tilted in favour of their students even when they are not the best qualified candidates. The children of alumni also receive preferential treatment in admissions to elite universities, a phenomenon referred to as the ‘legacy preference’. This suggests that social capital is something that can function in the interests of those who hold it without action on their part. Nonetheless survey research has illustrated that the children of high status parents can be quite aware of the social capital that they possess. At the other end of the spectrum, it has been argued that the dislocation associated with large council estates in Britain destroyed working class communities by removing social capital embodied in traditional family networks. In fact, more recent work has also shown that relocation resulting from urban regeneration projects can also have negative effects by removing people from their established social networks.
Recent research based on impressive official records in Denmark has convincingly demonstrated the power of social connections in relation to voting. A special edition of the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties included work that showed the lower likelihood of turning out associated with leaving home before the habit of voting, inherited from parents, has taken hold. This decline in voting amongst young people is also associated with later maturation; young people are leaving education, getting married, and having children later. This means that they are less settled in one location and, in part because of the social networks that they are therefore part of, less likely to vote. At the other end of the age scale, people are found to ‘retire’ from voting as their social networks decline with old age. The effects of social connections on turnout are not restricted to youth and old age, and evidence also suggests that discussing politics with non-voters who communicate their scepticism or uncertainty about voting impacts negatively on one’s own likelihood of turning out. Social connections and pressure can also work to promote turnout, as demonstrated in a fascinating field experiment that found that the prospect of having one’s choice of whether or not to vote made public significantly raised turnout. That research is complemented by evidence that voting is contagious within households, and that personal connections are more important in mobilisation than are remote messages. All of the preceding serves to emphasise the importance of social connections in political participation. Thus, social capital, in the form of who one knows, what their statuses are, and how strong the connections are, has important implications for life outcomes in general and political participation in particular.
As indicated by the length and complexity of Distinction, cultural capital is perhaps the least easy to succinctly define of the three forms, which has lead to criticism of the varied operationalisation of the concept. Further it has been argued that levels of cultural capital when entering education have no effect on subsequent attainment. Such arguments have not deterred the literature from focussing on the role of the educational context in reproducing and measuring cultural capital. It has been argued that ‘choice of school appears as the one real chance that parents get to structure a significant slice of socialisation beyond the home.’ In that vein, research has illustrated that even when middle-class parents go ‘against the grain’ by choosing urban schooling for their children, they do so with specific goals in mind. These may be educational, for instance to instil a work ethic, or more broadly experiential, for instance to gain diverse cultural experiences in a moderated environment.
Those parents who do choose to send their children to private school may focus on the material benefits such as better facilities, more highly qualified teachers, smaller class sizes, the array of extra-curricular activities, and better results and prospects for university entrance. At a less tangible level, they may hope that such schools will build their children’s character, instil discipline in them, and generally ‘polish’ them in preparation for their future lives. Hence academic qualifications can represent more than ability in certain fields, indicating that children have been socialised to be motivated and to understand the requirements of their role in any given context. Beyond school, ‘[a] college degree confirms that the graduate is a responsible, diligent member of society who knows how to conform to its requirements.’ Alternatively, for those without the privilege of attending university or ‘good’ schools, the educational system can prove alienating as ‘middle-class teachers operate a whole series of linguistic and cultural controls which are “dissonant” with those of [their] family and peers, but whose mastery is implicitly defined as the index of intelligence and achievement’. Further, privileged students who conform to the ‘mainstream’ academic culture may behave disparagingly towards a lack of privilege that can manifest itself in delinquency.
The importance of cultural capital extends beyond the confines of formal education, for instance into consumption habits. It has been argued that rising general wealth leads to ‘[t]he eclipse of “waste” by “taste”’ as the privileged demonstrate their cultural superiority through consumption of particular brands with associated images. This re-establishes or reinforces control of cultural signifiers including habits and brands because ability to consume excessively loses its value. At the same time, on a less material level, higher levels of education are also positively related to interest in politics and participation in political activity. Interestingly, and as with social capital, children of high status parents are often aware of the impact that family background has on consumption habits.
As noted in passing above, Bourdieu also identifies the link from education to a sense of entitlement to express political opinions. That observation, however, is only part of his assessment of the role of cultural capital in individuals’ approaches to politics and, in fact, he gives over a section in Distinction to the topic. In it he suggests political opinions and issue positions, for instance on policies relating to minimum wages and accommodation for the working classes, are based on class position. Further, and more fundamental than opinion, he argues that an inclination towards political engagement itself is a facet of the middle-class habitus. The importance of class can be seen in the domination of politics by those who speak using a particular style and, in so doing, demonstrate their political qualifications. The dominance of the political style of expression means that even representatives of the working classes, such as those who rise through the ranks of trades unions, end up being detached from the class that they came from. This detachment is such that ‘[a]bstentionism is perhaps not so much a hiccup in the system as one of the conditions of its functioning as a misrecognized – and therefore recognized – restriction on political participation.’ Further, the requisite manner of performance in politics acts as a structural barrier to political participation in which those outside politics hold :
suspicion of the political “stage”, a “theatre” whose rules are not understood and which leaves ordinary taste with a sense of helplessness, [and which] is often the sources of “apathy” and of a generalized distrust of all forms of speech and spokesmen.
In summary, Bourdieu’s seminal work suggests the importance of cultural tastes, habits, and consumption patterns, as well as social networks, alongside that of economic capital. He argues that those three forms of capital are exchangeable but that their distribution is heavily defined by the ongoing struggle between classes and the fractions within them. The defining role of class means that there are homologies between the different types of each of the three forms of capital, which come together to form the habitus of each class and fraction. The habitus is manifested in behavioural patterns and, as such, the three forms of capital act as the mechanism through which background characteristics such as class are translated into unequal societal outcomes, including in relation to political participation. Thus, Bourdieu presents a convincing account of the workings of privilege, the importance of which has been reflected in the extensive empirical work relating to the impact of economic, social, and cultural capital.
 Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1966), pp. 435-443.
 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Forms of Capital’, in John G. Richardson (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York, Greenwood Press, 1986), pp. 241-258, p. 243.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, translated by Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 19-21, p. 28, pp. 32-34, p. 43, pp. 54-60, pp. 185-196, pp. 201-206, pp. 217, , p. 226, p. 255, p. 270, pp. 274-278, pp. 288-290, pp. 298-301, pp. 324-325, pp. 334-336, pp. 346-351, pp. 355-357, pp. 391-393, pp. 413-414, pp. 444-449.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 1, p. 16, pp. 359-360.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 93, p. 250, pp. 327-328.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 134, p. 147, p. 149, pp. 176-177, p. 196, p. 218, p. 220, p. 231, p. 246, p. 273, p. 311, p. 395, pp. 450-451.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 224, p. 226; Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (London, Lawrence & Wishart, 1948), pp. 13-26.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 120.pp. 128-129.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 218, p. 254, p. 270, pp. 305-309
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 327-328, 341-342, pp. 346-352, p. 396.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 382-383, p. 458.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 106.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 173.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 196.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 199.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 23, p. 387.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 1, p. 105.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 409.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 66; see also p. 252.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 91-92.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 110, p. 134, p. 206, p. 346.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 155-156, pp. 333-337, pp. 358-359, p. 387.
 ‘Books of the Century’, International Sociological Association, 2007, viewed at http://www.isa-sociology.org/books/alfa/booksa_b.htm on 29.08.2013.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 147.
 Fabian T. Pfeffer and Martin Hällsten, ‘Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth: The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison’, Population Studies Center Research Report, No. 12-766, p. 21, viewed at http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/pdf/rr12-766.pdf on 27.08.2012.
 Pfeffer and Hällsten, ‘Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth’, pp. 5-9; Atkinson, The Economics of Inequality, pp. 106-111.
 Pfeffer and Hällsten, ‘Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth’, pp. 2-5.
 Eric Midwinter, ‘Age and Inequality’, in Geoff Dench (ed.), The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp. 109-115, pp. 110-112.
 Yvonne Roberts, ‘Marginalised Young Men’, in Dench, The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy, pp. 97-104, pp. 97-100; Michelynn Lafléche, ‘Face, Race and Place, Merit and Ethnic Minorities’, in Dench, The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy, pp. 90-96, p. 94; Pattillo-McCoy, Black Picket Fences, p. 208.
 Caroline Hodges Persell and Peter W. Cookson Jr., ‘Chartering and Bartering: Elite Education and Social Reproduction’, Social Problems, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Dec., 1985), pp. 114-129.
 John Larew, ‘Why are Droves of Unqualified, Underprepared Kids Getting into our Top Colleges? Because Their Dads Are Alumni’, in Kimmel and Ferber, Privilege, pp. 135-144.
 John E. Hughes, ‘The Perception of the Influence of Parental Occupational Prestige’, The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring, 1961), pp. 39-49.
 Phil Cohen, ‘Subcultural conflict and working-class community’, in Hall, Culture, Media, Language, pp. 78-87.
 Anne Power and Helen Willmot, ‘Social Capital Within the Neighbourhood’, Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics and Political Science), CASEreport 38 (Jun., 2007), viewed at http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cr/CASEreport38.pdf on 25.10.2013.
 Yosef Bhatti and Kasper M. Hansen, ‘Leaving the Nest and the Social Act of Voting: Turnout among First-Time Voters’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, vol. 22, No. 4 (Nov., 2012), pp. 380-406.
 Kaat Smets, ‘A Widening Generational Divide? The Age Gap in Voter Turnout Through Time and Space’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, vol. 22, No. 4 (Nov., 2012), pp. 407-430.
 Yosef Bhatti and Kasper M. Hansen, ‘Retiring from Voting: Turnout among Senior Voters’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, vol. 22, No. 4 (Nov., 2012), pp. 479-500.
 Julia Partheymüller and Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, ‘A “Social Logic” of Demobilization: The Influence of Political Discussants on Electoral Participation at the 2009 German Federal Election’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, vol. 22, No. 4 (Nov., 2012), pp. 457-478.
 Alan S. Gerber, Donald P. Green and Christopher W. Larimer, ‘Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, no. 1 (Feb., 2008), pp. 33-48.
 David W. Nickerson, ‘Is Voting Contagious? Evidence from Two Field Experiments’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 1 (Feb., 2008), pp. 49-57; Daryl J. Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs (Belmont, CA, Brooks/Cole Publishing, 1970), pp. 75-77.
 Paul W. Kingston, ‘The Unfulfilled Promise of Cultural Capital Theory’, Sociology of Education, Vol. 74, Extra Issue: Current of Thought: Sociology of Education at the Dawn of the 21st Century (2001), pp. 88-99.
 Kingston, ‘The Unfulfilled Promise of Cultural Capital Theory’, pp. 88-99.
 Diane Reay, Gill Crozier and David James, White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 19, p. 21.
 Reay, Crozier and James, White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling, p. 29.
 Reay, Crozier and James, White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling, pp. 31-42, pp. 166-167.
 Geoffrey Walford, Privatization and Privilege in Education (London, Routledge, 1990), pp. 44-55.
 Walford, Privatization and Privilege in Education, pp. 42.
 Alan C. Kerckhoff, ‘Family Position, Peer Influences, and Schooling’, in Richardson, Handbook of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education, pp. 93-112, p. 109.
 Peter Marris, ‘Just Rewards: Meritocracy Fifty Years Later’, in Dench, The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy, pp. 157-162, p. 159.
 Cohen, ‘Subcultural conflict and working-class community’, in Hall, Culture, Media, Language, p. 86.
 Reay, Crozier and James, White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling, p. 143; Pattillo-McCoy, Black Picket Fences, pp. 212-213; Cohen, ‘Subcultural conflict and working-class community’, in Hall, Culture, Media, Language, p. 86.
 Alan Shipman, ‘Lauding the Leisure Class: Symbolic Content and Conspicuous Consumption’, Review of Social Economy, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Sep., 2004), pp. 277-289, p. 280.
 Shipman, ‘Lauding the Leisure Class’, pp. 283-288.
 Jim Ogg, ‘A Brief Profile of the New British Establishment’, in Dench, The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy, pp. 81-89, pp. 84-85.
 Hughes, ‘The Perception of the Influence of Parental Occupational Prestige’, pp. 44-45.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 418, pp. 431-432.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 419.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 413-414, pp. 343-344.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 417, p. 424, p. 462.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 398.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 464-465.
Taken together the preceding three sections illustrate the extent of the literature that relates to political participation and the inequalities in such activity that stem from background characteristics. That literature has provided numerous categorisations of political participation which have been amalgamated to create the typology adopted in the current research. That typology draws on the work of Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, who are also identified as having provided a convincing account of the causal process that translates background characteristics into unequal political participation. That account has been supplemented by the wide-ranging literature on the impact of privilege, which has been introduced as the broad concept that can accommodate the observations outlined in Voice and Equality.
Extensive though the outlined literature is, there remain crucial gaps that the subsequent sections of this literature review aim to address. First, the preceding sections have outlined a host of texts that have observed the connections between background characteristics and unequal outcomes but no holistic theory of privilege that can elucidate all of the processes of interest. There has been an extensive focus on economic inequality and on the direct effects of key social cleavages but no overarching account of those processes. Even Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s impressive work adopts an incomplete approach to the workings or privilege, presenting only some of the mechanisms by which background characteristics are translated into advantage or disadvantage. As will be shown below, it is quite easy to accommodate those mechanisms within a broader, and richer, theory of privilege. This will also provide the basis to address the fact that, despite providing a convincing account of the processes that lead to political participation, their models leave considerable room for improvement in predicting that behaviour.
Further, all of the above observations relate to the impact of structural forces on individual behaviour, failing to account for the of internal affective and cognitive processes that have important implications for behaviour. Thus, the current research aims to go one step further than just adopting a more holistic account of the structural workings of privilege by also considering the role of perception of privilege. In doing so it will address the paucity of research considering the importance of subjective privilege and its interactions with its objective counterpart. In addressing that paucity it will be advancing a more meaningful understanding of the causal processes that lead to political participation. Indeed, the lack of previous consideration of subjective privilege should be considered an oversight; how can the mechanisms that translate privilege into political participation be understood if individuals’ internal processes are not considered? Thus, subjective privilege represents a key link in the causal chain that must be considered alongside its objective counterpart. Providing this more complete account may also help to explain the different trends in implicit and explicit political participation noted previously. That is to say that it may prove to be the case that the importance of privilege is perceived to be different in relation to explicit rather than implicit political participation, acting as a barrier in relation to the former but not the latter.
Finally, in providing a fuller account of the workings of both subjective and objective privilege it is the aim of the current research to provide a better understanding of why some people do not participate in politics. As noted at the outset it is commonly recognised that democracy, however envisaged, cannot function without public involvement. If that involvement is disproportionately undertaken by certain groups then it is important to understand why. Indeed, the approach to addressing participatory inequality should be quite different if perception of privilege is found to have an important effect than if structural factors alone affect such participation. Thus, the subsequent sections of this literature review will provide a holistic account of the workings of privilege and perception of privilege, laying the groundwork for empirical research that will offer a more complete account of the processes that lead to political participation.
 Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality, pp. 334-368.
The identification of inequalities in political participation highlights the impact of structural forces on individuals. Whilst Verba, Schlozman, and Brady provide a strong account of the processes that link background characteristics with unequal political participation they do not identify a broad theory that can accommodate their findings. This is where the concept of privilege, which can encompass the inherited advantage related to gender, race and ethnicity, and class, comes into play. The theories around privilege are numerous so it is expedient to begin the consideration of the concept with a basic definition upon which the following can rest:
“Privilege,” both in its legal and its everyday use, indicates what someone or something has in virtue of being singled out for advantageous treatment. A privilege is necessarily reserved for a few not given to all.
Whilst privilege may be positive, entitling the holder to certain benefits, or negative, freeing the holder from restrictions, it is widely understood to be granted to certain groups for reasons other than merit. Questions about the effects of such unearned advantage are closely linked to the wider debate around the effects of inequality. The politically heated nature of that debate has led to questions about how to define and measure inequality. For instance, it has been noted that the distribution of income is less dispersed than the distribution of wealth, and that lifetime income is more equally dispersed than is annual income, whilst some have argued that expenditure should be the measure of inequality. Such measurement effects inform the criticism that ‘measures such as the Gini coefficient are not purely “statistical” and they embody implicit judgements about the weight to be applied to the inequality at different points on the income scale.’
Despite such criticisms the Gini coefficient is widely used and has underpinned work demonstrating that greater inequality is linked to worse outcomes at aggregate level. These have been observed in a range of areas including levels of trust, prevalence of mental health issues, obesity rates, average educational attainment, numbers of teenage births, levels of violence, proportion of the population imprisoned, and social mobility. More directly pertinent to the current research, higher income inequality has also been linked to lower turnout rates in national elections. The impact of inequality on politics is not the whole story, however, and it has been argued that inequality is, in fact, a political phenomenon. It has been shown that the policies of political parties can impact on levels of inequality and yet that people continue to vote for parties that do not act in their best interests.
As noted previously, evidence has also suggested that elected representatives’ voting records more closely reflect the views of their wealthy constituents than of their poor constituents. Thus, the day-to-day advantages of having a higher income or more wealth may be complemented by policy-making that reflects your interests and views. Such advantages might be reasonable if they were earned but, returning to the focus of the current research, the literature on privilege suggests the pervasive influence of unearned advantage on outcomes. Although those effects also relate to areas such as sexuality, disability, and age privilege is most frequently cited in relation to the three commonly identified social cleavages of sex, race, and class.
Moving beyond aggregate level observations of inequality more critical approaches have documented the pervasive workings of privilege at all levels of society. Research has convincingly demonstrated that, even as explicit sexism and racism are challenged, the overrepresentation of white men in senior management jobs remains constant across most sectors despite the growth in white collar job numbers. At higher levels, women in elite jobs are less supported by traditional family structures, and have access to fewer elite networks to sustain their positions. In fact, it has been noted that opponents of affirmative action ignore the institutionalised affirmative action that previously functioned, as a matter of course, in favour of white men. Blindness to the benefits of being white and male has been posited to constitute a nonconscious ideology that pervades society, assigning roles to individuals with little consideration for their abilities or aspirations.
Although the relationships between race and ethnicity, and sex and gender are complex, it is agreement about what constitutes class that has perhaps been most difficult to obtain. This is reflected in the number of contending class structures that have been posited, operationalised, and measured, though the concept itself is generally accepted to be of import. Research controlling for educational attainment has revealed that class and gender limit social mobility in the United Kingdom, with higher class providing insurance against downward mobility. This undermines the claim that Britain constitutes a meritocracy in which ability alone determines societal position. It has been argued that this is morally problematic as well as, based on formal mathematical models, economically inefficient. This is because the most able individuals are excluded from appropriate employment, which may also be the employment that they wish to pursue, by less qualified but more privileged individuals.
In addition to wider societal inequalities based on privilege there is also evidence of the specific relevance of sex, race, and class to political participation. Gender stereotypes associate masculine and feminine traits in candidates with competence in certain policy areas, and inform the widespread belief, held by both sexes, that men know more about politics than women. Such beliefs may contribute to the exclusion of women from politics, with even otherwise progressive groups sometime becoming dominated by men, raising the need for organisations to positively encourage female participation. At the same time, turnout and representation in the UK differs between races, and a range of models have been tested to explain observed differences in general political participation rates between races. In relation to class, it has been convincingly argued that occupational status is still significantly related to both volume and type of political participation, and that class is still related to party choices. There is also evidence that political participation can be related to other factors such as religion and, to a very great extent, age. Crucially, the structuring of political participation by background characteristics, whatever they may be, can be difficult to overcome when dominant groups fail to acknowledge their privilege by resisting information that runs counter to their existing beliefs. This can inform opposition to attempts to make the participation more open, and thus sustain patterns of exclusion based on privilege.
The observation that people are advantaged or disadvantaged by background characteristics such as sex, race, and class is hardly controversial; the idea that society is structured by these cleavages is commonplace. Nevertheless, there is something unsatisfactory about that observation when it comes to explaining why people do or do not engage in political activity; to simply observe such patterns is not to explain them. This recognition led to the previously noted call for research to move ‘beyond SES’ when attempting to account for political behaviour. In answering this call it is possible to deploy privilege as the overarching concept accommodating the mechanisms through which background characteristics translate into advantage or disadvantage. The nature of those mechanisms will be more fully elucidated below but there are two points about their relationship with background characteristics that are worth making at this point. First, they are not simple relationships; characteristics such as sex, race, and class, not-to-mention sexuality, religion, age, disability, and location, interact to give each individual a unique privilege profile. Second, each individual cannot, thus, be placed in a neat privilege compartment but will hold a unique position on a spectrum of privilege relating to any given context, such as that of political participation.
To summarise, the literature on inequality and privilege emphasises the impact of background characteristics on unequal outcomes across society, including in political participation. That literature often focuses on the frequently cited cleavages of sex, race, and class but the concept of privilege can also accommodate the impact of other characteristics such as sexuality, disability, age, and location. Thus, privilege acts as an overarching concept that can accommodate the mechanisms that translate all those background characteristics into advantage or disadvantage. One account of those mechanisms was presented when outlining Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s work in the previous section. However, that work does not provide a full account of those mechanisms, which suggests the need to turn to a more complete theory of privilege.
 Alan R. White, ‘Privilege’, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 3 (May, 1978), pp. 299-311, p. 299.
 White, ‘Privilege’, p. 300.
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