I am very sorry that I am constantly bugging about anthropology, but I think the field has very interesting things to say about class, and it can help to understand class in London.
After seeing The Pitmen Painters at the National Theatre, a play I enjoyed very much although I could not understand some of the things the actors were saying, I thought how important cultural capital is. Cultural capital is the knowledge that most of us in the course have, because we attend a college, but that so many people do not have. Knowledge is capital, because it can take us places beyond our imagination and change us in many ways without us realizing it. The problem is that most of the times, the elite or canon will decide which kind of knowledge is valuable. Why is it important to know about Van Gogh, and not other painters? Why is there a way to speak proper English? Why do we have to behave a certain way in a museum, or in a restaurant? Because someone decides what “proper culture is”, and as we saw very well reflected in the play, many people do not have this “proper culture” or cultural capital. The pitmen painters, did not have cultural capital, because after all, they were pitmen. Nobody ever taught them how to appreciate art because they never needed that knowledge to work at the mines. What is heartbreaking about the play, is to see that in the end, the pitmen are so alienated by their condition, that they cannot pursue what might have been their true nature as artists. After all, is any of us born to work in a mine?
This thought made me think on how lucky we are that we have the cultural capital needed to understand the museums which we visit, to appreciate the classical music at the BBC proms, to know have connections through Dickinson, that allow us to have a talk with a top executive at Barclays. And yes, how lucky we are that we do not have to work in a mine.