Soft Power and Cultural Capital of Nations: the Case of Film Industry

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-11-106-113
G. Paksiutov (, 
Lomonosov Moscow State University, 11/1, Mokhovaya Str., Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article showcases the similarities between Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power and Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of capital, and attempts to draw upon the latter to deepen the understanding of the role of culture as a source of soft power. This approach is applied to study the role of a national film industry as a soft power tool. First, based on the existing academic literature, some key concepts relevant to the film industry are conceptualized in terms of Bourdieu’s theory of capital. After that, Bourdieu’s research frameworks – particularly, the concept of cultural capital – are used to describe how national film industry contributes to a nation’s cultural influence on the global stage. The author specifically highlights the importance of consideration of “institutionalized cultural capital” (or institutional recognition) and presents some evidence on film awards, namely, the awards from three large European film festivals (Berlin, Venice and Cannes) and Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. It is emphasized that European countries (such as Italy and France) and the U.S. are in advantageous position in regard to this component of cultural influence: motion pictures produced by these countries receive awards very frequently, while, for instance, African and South American films are awarded scarcely. Such tendencies demonstrate unequal possibilities of countries for the use of national cinema as a tool of cultural influence. The author asserts that a national “soft power strategy” can be seen, in terms of Bourdieu’s theory of capital, as a capital conversion strategy, and discusses the implications of such approach. Furthermore, the applicability of Bourdieu’s theory of capital for the analysis of Russian cinema as a soft power tool is discussed. In conclusion, the author summarizes theoretical and practical implications of the proposed approach, draws attention to some of possible directions for further research. 

Keywords: soft power, cultural capital, Pierre Bourdieu, film industry


  1. Nye J.S. Soft Power. Foreign policy, 1990, no. 80, pp. 153-171.
  2. Nye J.S. Get Smart: Combining Hard and Soft Power. Foreign Affairs, 2009, vol. 88, no. 4, pp. 160-163.
  3. Noya J. The Symbolic Power of Nations. Place Branding, 2006, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 53-67.
  4. Bourdieu P. Formy kapitala [Forms of Capital]. Economic Sociology, 2002, vol. 3, no. 5, pp. 60-74.
  5. Bourdieu P. Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory, 1989, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 14-25.
  6. Bourdieu P., Nice R. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 1977. 249 p.
  7. Fan Y. Soft Power: Power of Attraction or Confusion? Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2008, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 147-158. DOI: 10.1057/pb.2008.4
  8. Svendsen G.L.H., Svendsen G.T. On the Wealth of Nations: Bourdieuconomics and Social Capital. Theory and Society, 2003, vol. 32, no. 5-6, pp. 607-631. DOI: 10.1023/B:RYSO.0000004967.97783.c4
  9. Bigo D. Pierre Bourdieu and International Relations: Power of Practices, Practices of Power. International Political Sociology, 2011, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 225-258. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2011.00132.x
  10. Adler-Nissen R., ed. Bourdieu in International Relations: Rethinking Key Concepts in IR. London, Routledge, 2012. 230 p.
  11. Yang L. American Soft Power Spurred by American Dream in Hollywood Movies. Available at: (accessed 04.01.2020).
  12. Peng W. China, Film Coproduction and Soft Power Competition. Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, 2015. 232 p.
  13. Radaev V.V. Ponyatie kapitala, formy kapitalov i ikh konvertatsiya [The Definition of Capital, Forms of Capital and their Conversion]. Economic Sociology, 2002, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 20-32.
  14. Hesmondhalgh D. Bourdieu, the Media and Cultural Production. Media, Culture and Society, 2006, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 211-231. DOI: 10.1177/0163443706061682
  15. Hill J. UK Film Policy, Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion. Cultural Trends, 2004, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 29-39. DOI: 10.1080/0954896042000267134
  16. Heise T., Tudor A. Constructing (Film) Art: Bourdieu’s Field Model in a Comparative Context. Cultural Sociology, 2007, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 165-187. DOI:10.1177/1749975507078186
  17. Kelley J.G., Simmons B.A. Politics by Number: Indicators as Social Pressure in International Relations. American Journal of Political Science, 2015, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 55-70. DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12119
  18. Elliott C., Simmons R. Determinants of UK Box Office Success: the Impact of Quality Signals. Review of Industrial Organization, 2008, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 93-111. DOI: 10.1007/s11151-008-9181-0
  19. Leheny D. A Narrow Place to Cross Swords: Soft Power and the Politics of Japanese Popular Culture in East Asia. Beyond Japan: the dynamics of East Asian regionalism. Katzenstein P.J., Shiraishi T., eds. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2006, pp. 211-233.
  20. Venice Film Festival. History 1932–2019. Available at: (accessed 07.06.2020).
  21. Berlinale – Golden Bear Winners (1951–2020). Available at: (accessed 07.06.2020).
  22. Cannes award winners and runner-ups: 2019–1939. Available at:,asc&st_dt=&mode=detail&page=1 (accessed 07.06.2020).
  23. Experience over eight decades of the Oscars from 1927 to 2020. Available at: (accessed 07.06.2020).
  24. Marvasti A. International Trade in Cultural Goods: a Cross-Sectional Analysis. Journal of Cultural Economics, 1994, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 135-148. DOI: 10.1007/BF01078936
  25. Mukherjee R. The False Promise of India’s Soft Power. Geopolitics, History and International Relations, 2014, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 46-62.
  26. Foreign Policy Concept of Russian Federation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2016 (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 04.01.2020).
  27. Filimonov G. Russia’s soft power potential. Russia in Global Affairs, 2010, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 146-157.
  28. UIS Statistics. Available at: (accessed 05.01.2020).
  29. Latukhina K. Kino dlya vsekh [Cinema for Everyone]. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 17.10.2019.
  30. Strukov V. Russian “Manipulative Smart Power”: Zviagintsev’s Oscar Nomination, (non-) Government Agency and Contradictions of the Globalized World. New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 2016, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 31-49. DOI:

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Paksiutov G. Soft Power and Cultural Capital of Nations: the Case of Film Industry. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 11, pp. 106-113.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 7
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • The Supporting Structure of Global Security
  • Institutional Features of the Fourth Energy Transition
  • The Evolution of Modern German Christian Democracy
  • The Monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.