We hear of all manner and form of capital – social capital, political capital, financial capital, cultural capital, etc. These are simply various forms of wealth with the ability to be spent in different realms of human community. Different realms have different methods of exchange depending upon what is valued. In some parts of the world today, the valued capital might be a goat or a chicken. In other parts of the world what might be valued more than cash money at a given moment would be the making of a phone call to influence someone to help another.
In his first press conference following the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush famously extolled, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” This form of wealth came in the form of political popularity and was that power which an electoral majority conferred upon him as a politician. Such an account balance is only proven by the degree to which a president can get other politicians to do his bidding. Hence, lame duck presidents hold a smaller account balance than do those just riding into town with a big victory. Of course, there is no actual “bank account” but there is indeed a balance to be cashed in the form of influence.
In some ways, cultural capital is an umbrella for the other forms of capital. Some individuals have greater cultural capital than others and it often has to do with the public esteem or position they hold in their community. The president of the university might have more “stroke” than your plumber depending upon what group he is addressing. One may have great social capital because of the deep and loyal networks of trust one enjoys. One may have great financial capital simply because one is has a lot of money. But in the end, it is all about the ability to wield influence as a medium of exchange.