What lies at the root of academic remuneration in a culture of professionalized celebrity? I take this question as an opportunity to reconsider the notion of cultural capital. Discounting the idea that “intellectual labor” exists, I argue that we need instead to discuss “intellectual labor power,” the process through which thought performance, which includes teaching, is commodified on the price-setting marketplace. When viewed in this light, Pierre Bourdieu's influential definitions of cultural capital will be found wanting, as they do not account for the social differences that capitalist practices make as they reconfigure status societies into contract ones. Instead, I propose the rudiments of a theory of cultural capital grounded in the exploitation of labor power through institutions of knowledge formation, and I nominate the form through which this value appears as prestige. Prestige is the social expression of the labor value given up by subjects to institutions and their agents in return for the perceived security of (occupational) privilege; it is the collective form of charisma. In this light, iconic figures become remunerated, less for their individual work and its putative ingenuity than for how it attracts unpaid labor and its benefits for their institution to use in the congeries of bourgeois civil society.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.