Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Change the World: Proposition Three

Cultural production is stratified in a rigid structure of “center” and “periphery.”
With economic capital-money, quantity is paramount. More is almost always better than, and more influential than, less. With cultural capital, it isn’t quantity but quality that counts most. It is the status of cultural credentials and accomplishment.

In other words, with culture, there is a center and a periphery. The individuals, networks, and institutions most critically involved in the production of a culture or civilization operate in the “center,” where prestige is the highest; not on the periphery, where status is low. And so, one may be able to get as good an education at Colorado State as you would at Harvard, but Harvard, as an institution, is at the center and Colorado State is at the periphery of cultural production. USA Today may sell more copies of newspapers than the New York Times, but it is the New York Times that is the newspaper of record in America (for better or worse) because it is at the center of cultural production, not the periphery. One can sell two hundred thousand copies of a book published by Zondervan or Crossway, and only five thousand copies of a book published by Knopf or Random House. But it is the book by Knopf or Random House that is more likely to be reviewed in the New York Review of Books or the Washington Post because Knopf and Random House are at the center and Zondervan is at the periphery.

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