It is hard to deny that Financial Capital is a dominant form of privilege in today's society. Whether it is earned, inherited or distributed by some state or philanthropic means; financial capital seems to be at the core of how we identify, measure and discriminate between the amount of "privilege" that a person is said to have.
After all, aren't the growing grievances towards systemic injustices (based on gender, ethnicity, cultural or religious affiliation, etc...) often articulated by means of the financial consequences or disadvantages they entail on individuals?
When not a measure of Financial Capital however, things often fall onto the equally hard to ignore role of Social-Status Capital. The idea here being that privilege also comes from knowing the "right" people in order to have access to the "right" opportunities that most don't otherwise have. Here again, one might be born into a family with more powerful connections, or achieve a social status through matrimony or ones professional achievements that grants oneself access to such privileged networks.
Can you think of other forms of Capital that human societies have and that impact how we commonly understand privileges?
In my view, though these two aspects, Financial and Social-Status Capital, do ring true to much of our experiences. They seem overemphasized and feel rather incomplete in describing a landscape of privileges that I believe to be much broader and richer than we are often led to believe.
What other forms of Capital could be missing from our experiences with understanding privilege?
Let us take a look into psychology in order to understand how we could expand our understanding of privilege and how to measure it.
In 1983, Harvard developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed a theory to differentiate between human intelligences. In his approach, he proposed 7 abilities that range between musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
While the familiar IQ standard measures essentially verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical form of intelligence, producing a pleasingly simplified and standardized numeric value. It does very poorly at measuring the other forms of intelligence that we know exist.
My point here is the following: What if we have been understanding and measuring privilege in a restrictively biased way, looking only at 2 aspects (Financial and Social-Status), out of what is a much broader and richer field of features and experiences?
It seems to me that this may very well be the case. But in order to appreciate other forms of privileges, we must change the means by which we measure it (just as you could hardly appreciate or measure bodily-kinesthetic intelligence through a written test!). That change involves at its core a profound paradigm shift, from understanding privilege as that which leads to success, towards that which leads to happiness and well-being.
I believe that such an enriched framework and approach is possible if we take a more humanistic approach to appreciating privilege in a less binary way.
I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts and ideas about how to conceptualize these additional forms of privileges!
Originally posted on January 6th 2019