Interconversion of Capital and Structure of Inequalities Managing Transition Toward Adulthood in Transforming Society

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:00 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Chivoin PEOU , University of Melbourne, Australia
This paper draws on Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘capital’ and ‘field’ to examine how different social groups of young people negotiate the transition into the labor market and toward adulthood – particularly the interconversion of various forms of capital, in the process contributing to the reproduction of inequalities. The transformation of the Cambodian society toward a modern industrial and service economy has entailed a new context for youth labor market and mobility. The emergent occupational and mobility field has become characterized by the stratification of passages into poorly-paid, labor-intensive workers and university graduate workers, and by a dual youth policy discourse of promoting the enterprising subject and protecting the ‘at-risk’. Based on a study of the life experiences of young rural-urban migrant labor workers (n=20) and university students (n=31) in Cambodia in 2011–2012, this paper demonstrates how different forms of capital are drawn upon by differently positioned youths in managing their transition toward adulthood. The rural youth rely heavily on their social network and embedded cultural capital to produce economic resources for mobility and future security. On the other hand, those with relatively higher economic capital, mostly the urban youth, concentrate on accumulating institutionalized cultural capital, and sometimes developing new embedded cultural capital, for mobility and successful adulthood. The results are to be interpreted in the context of quickly transformed social space, the absence of a welfare state, and the instrumental family of Cambodia. At the interactional level, the transforming society has entailed two differentiated capital conversion strategies for the rural poor and the (often urban) resourceful in the transition toward adulthood, but neither group/strategy is insulated from new risks and uncertainties of the life course. At the socio-structural level, the process contributes to an altered structure of inequalities broadly tantamount to the emerging working and educated middle classes.