Theses Doctoral

Symbolic Capitalism: Social Justice Discourse, Inequality and the Rise of a New Elite

al-Gharbi, Musa

The early 20th century saw the rise of a new constellation of social and cultural elites whose wealth and status was tied to the production and manipulation of symbols and rhetoric, images and narratives, data and analysis, ideas and abstractions, drawing from Bourdieu, let us call them symbolic capitalists. From the outset, symbolic capitalists have defined themselves as champions of the desperate, vulnerable, marginalized and otherwise disadvantaged in society.

However, as they have grown in affluence and influence, various forms of inequality have not only persisted, they’ve grown. And although symbolic capitalists are among the most likely in the U.S. to identify as antiracists, feminists, environmentalists, or ‘allies’ to LGBTQ Americans, they are also among the primary beneficiaries of systemic and institutional inequalities. Their lifestyles and social position are contingent on exploiting and reproducing many of the social conditions they explicitly condemn. This dissertation seeks to explore the role social justice discourse plays in the political economy of the symbolic professions.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bearman, Peter Shawn
Wimmer, Andreas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 16, 2023