In the "Forms of Capital" Bourdieu expands the notion of capital beyond its economic conception which emphasizes material exchanges, to include "immaterial" and "non-economic" forms of capital, specifically cultural and symbolic capital. He explains how the different types of capital can be acquired, exchanged, and converted into other forms. Because the structure and distribution of capital also represent the inherent structure of the social world, Bourdieu argues that an understanding of the multiple forms of capital will help elucidate the structure and functioning of the social world.
The term cultural capital represents the collection of non-economic forces such as family background, social class, varying investments in and commitments to education, different resources, etc. which influence academic success. Bourdieu distinguishes three forms of cultural capital. The embodied state is directly linked to and incorporated within the individual and represents what they know and can do. Embodied capital can be increased by investing time into self improvement in the form of learning. As embodied capital becomes integrated into the individual, it becomes a type of habitus and therefore cannot be transmitted instantaneously. The objectified state of cultural capital is represented by cultural goods, material objects such as books, paintings, instruments, or machines. They can be appropriated both materially with economic capital and symbolically via embodied capital. Finally, cultural capital in its institutionalized state provides academic credentials and qualifications which create a "certificate of cultural competence which confers on its holder a conventional, constant, legally guaranteed value with respect to power." (248) These academic qualifications can then be used as a rate of conversion between cultural and economic capital.