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French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu first developed the theory of social reproduction in the 1970s to describe how social inequality is transmitted across generations. Bourdieu believed that the education system was a primary cause of social reproduction. Schools, for example, do not create equal opportunity, but structurally perpetuate social inequality. Children inherit their parents' cultural capital, which is converted into educational credentials (i.e. going to the "right" school), which are the main avenues of socialization in western capitalist societies.
Social Reproduction and Types on Capital
American sociologist Christopher B. Doob lists four types of capital as contributing to social reproduction:
- Financial capital
- Cultural capital
- Human capital
- Social capital
Financial capital is, of course, the income or wealth of an individual. A person's financial capital will greatly influence the level of cultural capital that one can achieve. This cultural capital then influences human capital, which is based on education and training opportunities. One's human capital allows for attainment of social capital, or the social networks one can enter.
The main thrust of social reproduction is that individuals are largely kept in the same socioeconomic class as their parents. Entire generations exist, for example, it the middle class, without opportunities for advancement. The resulting social stratification perpetuates inequality in society.