Alterations in labor markets in Latin America. The symbolic capital associated with the names of university degrees

Essay, 2019

13 Pages, Grade: 1

Free online reading

1. Introspection

By taking as its object a social world, in which one is understood, one is forced to stumble, in a form that could be called dramatized (Bourdieu, 1984)

The need to train technicians to support the growing technological complexity is a requirement of politically as dissimilar societies as Cuba and Mexico. Two common observations to Latin American countries are: i) An excess of students of law and ii) Low number of students studying technical careers. Far from dealing with other people's problems, we postulate that they are two sides of the same coin.1 In this essay, thanks to the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu, we analyze how the alteration of the names of the academic degrees, of racist origin, have generated a symbolic distortion in the exchange rates of school capital (objectified in the titles) by symbolic capital (prestige, honor) and economic capital (employment, salary). This leads to an excess of supply in the labor market of the praxis “doctors” in law (LL.B) to the detriment of the "university technicians" (associate degree). This is an academic degree that suffers from a lack of symbolic capital associated with its historical discrediting, which is associated with the racist connotations of the historical conformation of the social division of labor in LA. As a starting premise, we assume that Latin American states historically share the Iberian colonial heritage at the origin of their social spaces.

2. The colonial caste system and the juxtaposition between economic occupation and race

A new husband could be found [...] Well, I have arranged this singular matter with Duke Sanseverina-Taxis, who naturally ignores the name of the future duchess. The only thing he knows is that he will make him ambassador and give him the great decoration that his father had and that not having it makes him the most unfortunate of mortals [...] seriously believes that the honor consists in possessing that decoration and he is ashamed of his fortune.

Stendhal, "The Charterhouse of Parma"

In colonial Alto-Peru (Bolivia) strategies were developed that the various social castes, established by the Spanish monarchy, to evade the tax rules of the crown. One of these strategies was crossbreeding of blood and cultural miscegenation2. The cultural miscegenation, in the absence of changes in the skin, was based exclusively on the imitation of clothing and learning the language of the Spanish colonizer, which first became a mechanism to evade indigenous tributes gave way to the reproduction of a scheme of social mobility (Barragán, 1992). The search for social upheaval encased the new urban Indians in handicrafts and limited local industry. For example, at the time of the Hearing of Quito it was segmented socially under the beliefs of primacy of: "a prestigious descendant, the honor or the vileness of a person or family expressed in the social prestige of the professions and the employed positions. Thus, they spoke of 'jobs of honor', of 'honorary jobs in the religious, political and military'. Instead, "mechanical jobs" were considered 'vile' or 'infamous' jobs, such as the activities of the 'barber' or 'weaver', the use of 'mule driver', 'clerk at the Royal Customs'... "(Büschges 1997: 40). With the independence revolutions, there was a transformation, from a monarchical state to one controlled by incipient republics3. These values ​​referred to the reputation and the formation of honor4 in pre-independentist Latin American societies have been preserved, with few changes, privileging university degrees as a symbol of an elite that advocated their racial purity.

Being social spaces inherited from those doctors of the Audiencia de Charcas; it is not a minor fact that San Francisco Xavier (Sucre-Bolivia) was the first university of the continent (1624); being created, even, twelve years before Harvard. San Francisco Xavier was the classic medieval university that in the words of Ortega y Gasset "does not investigate and takes very little care of profession". American independence was conceived and forged by leaders born of those universities who knew little about science and much about verses and philosophy. Alto Peru became the Republic of Bolivia, despite the old practices of the colonial university field remained in the twentieth century. Where is observed that attachment for humanistic study and a continuous contempt for the know-how of science and technology. In this regard Carlos Medinaceli exemplified that the elite participated in an "intellectual and bureaucratic parasitism [..] intelligent to pronounce speeches, to make verses and writings, to go to the parliaments and dances, but until now we have not invented anything useful, nor even the bitumen ... "(1972: 20, 34)." The result, common to other LA countries, is the continuous reproduction of an intellectuality addicted to taking over the state bureaucracy. A political elite dominated by lawyers who designed an education in their own image, which obviated the practical application of science and technology as a central element of education, a non-know-how that took its toll in Latin American history. For example, during the US invasion of Mexico, technical and technological weakness was crucial because "while the United States used machines that could manufacture lead beads at a rate of 40,000 per day / worker, Mexico used craft workshops operated by civilians that in many times they gave away useless ammunition that got stuck in the canyons because of the se of 'cold molds' in poor condition. The lack of ammunition, the supply of supplies and the terrible quality of gunpowder was also a problem for Mexico throughout the war. " In spite of the hard blows that the historical experience imposes, the contempt for the manual work, the industry and the commerce continued imbued in the reproduction of the elites that privilege, even today, the theoretical education to be stagnant in the spaces of reproduction of its power.

What greater proof of the hegemony of that old elite that has known to survive wars and revolutions is the custom in several Latin American countries to allow the use of the praxis title of "doctor" to the B.LL graduates? Being, as is well known, that the only doctorate that university institutions provide, avoiding the PhD., is the honorary doctorate that is only granted in exceptional cases for "eminent services rendered to public culture." Thus, several Latin American states fail to regulate the assets that objectify school capital: university degrees. What has originated the social phenomenon of the “doctorismo” a: "system of nominations that do not need their substantial differences with the own ones of the academic doctor [PhD], but, on the contrary disguises them” (Marco, 2005).

3. Academic doctors and false doctors

Most people are ruined by investing too much in the prose of life. To be ruined by poetry is an honor. Oscar Wilde, "The portrait of Dorian Gray"

The doctorismo like Latin American social phenomenon, that is born from the Hispanic colonial inheritance that despises the technical and technological thing; because he associates it with the manual labor, with that which has no honor. What in turn shapes the habitus of the designers and main beneficiaries of this irregular distribution of symbolic capital by the state: the legislators, who are mostly, and have been, lawyers or "protocolar doctors"; privilege, for which no merit has been made (Rodríguez, 2011; Riveros, 2012). An extreme case is the city of Bogotá in Colombia, where it is customary to offer the treatment of doctor to any professional and getting the habit to the extreme, to include those who by their dress (tie, glasses) reflect some degree of power (Morales, 2013). The pandemic is such that the Bogota City Hall launched a public campaign to end the 'doctoritis' in that metropolis5. The following table shows how the distortions in the distribution of symbolic capital affect the growth of the "protocolary doctors in law".

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

* Data adjusted in Bolivia to 2015, according to Ministry of Justice records


The impact that these deformations in the exchange rates between academic degrees and symbolic capital, social assessment and student preference, affects the low rates of real doctors (PhD) whose work, ideally, should generate new knowledge through research for the development of the scientific field.

Graph 1. Latin American rate of graduates PhD in engineering (2000-2012)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Guerrero et. al. (2015)

Only in the case of engineering can we observe, in the following graph, how Spain has more than 200 PhD in engineering for every million inhabitants. In contrast, in Latin America only Cuba and Brazil surpass 50 PhD per million inhabitants. The Spanish success in the graduation of PhD doctors originates in the regulation policies of university teaching. Regulations that privilege the PhD as the only authoritative degree to access the university chair as a full professor.

On the contrary, the graph illustrates that Colombia, kingdom of the protocolary doctor, has less PhD than Chile: a less populated country, but where the euphemistic doctorate is not used. The other side of the coin is the symbolic handicap that Latin American societies attribute to the title of university technician (associate graduate) is expressed, for example, in the multiple books and reports that statistically separate them from university students, this segregation contributes to symbolically denigrate this tipe of higher education.

4. The symbolic handicap of the university technical degree (associate engineer)

I longed for or wanted something more vague, great and difficult to obtain. That night he called it 'honor'. Juan Villoro, "The Witness".

In Argentina 51% of the companies that looked for technical graduates had difficulties to hire them; similarly, the Mexican and Colombian labor market have a high demand for these intermediate grades (Vaszquez, 2017). However, Latin American students enroll in undergraduate careers with limited job opportunities. Nobody warns of the risks, public universities because their economic resources do not depend on the success of their graduates; and the private ones, because their economic success depends on massifying their customers (Rodríguez-Ostria, 2003).

The existence of employment sources for university technician and the low student preference for this academic degree cannot be explained by the way of economic rationality because these careers have good income and high labor demand. But by exchanges in the inter-social market between cultural capital, economic capital and the sum of both to accumulate symbolic capital (social prestige). A lesson they have learned by trial and error in Mexico.

Mexico seeks to generate one and a half million associated engineers for the automotive industry over the next four years; therefore, more associated degrees than engineering bachelors are required (Sánchez, 2017). Despite having been created more than quarter of a century ago (1991), the Technological Universities for the formation of University Superior Technicians (TSU) have managed to capture only 4% of the total university enrollment; that survives monopolized by the bachelor's degree (85%). This severe distortion between the demand for careers and student preference is explained because "technicians with higher education have not reached their social and labor valuation either in the labor market or in society [...] because of the symbolic significance of the degree in social projection and personal improvement ". (Ruíz, 2009). Phenomenon that is replicated in other nations, for example, "being a technician in Bolivia is seen as an occupation of little economic and social value" (Lozada 2006: 114). For this reason, the offer of the technical training institutes is affected qualitatively due to the limited capacity to provide symbolic capital to the title of technician. In addition, as in the case of Argentina, many technical careers are not recognized by the universities, which turns their degrees into terminals, restricting the possibilities of academic advancement and symbolic capital accumulation6 (prestige, honor). In Cuba, on the contrary, the Polytechnic Institutes grant diplomas that allow continuing higher studies (OEI s.f.: 9). Characteristics that explain why there are severe articulation problems between the demands of the productive sector and the vocational training offers of public and private higher education institutions. The title is more than a degree is an "objectified symbolic good". An understanding that has been handled with greater caution and precision in the old Spanish metropolis.

5. The Spanish “Technical Engineer”

So it was the baroness who appeared one morning in Venice, accompanied by a Roman engineer somewhat younger than her, a handsome, thin, tanned-skinned man whom sometimes people called an architect and sometimes a doctor, even if he was just an engineer. road engineer and impassioned reader of Moravia. Roberto Bolaños, 2666.

In order to prove that the distortion of assigning greater symbolic capital to the bachelor's degree, we will resort methodologically to the process of comparing our Latin American social spaces with Spain; where at the same time, 60% of foreigners who graduate as PhD doctors are Latin American. A sign of the bond that lasts between educational fields, thanks to the linguistic community of the spanish. In the hispanic country in 1964, with greater prudence and reflection on their own management of the symbolic, transmuted, the title of expert (perito), equivalent to “University Technician” (Técnico Superior), by “Technical Engineer"7. The result of this semantic change is illustrative: in 2003 there were 125,000 graduates in Industrial Engineering and 300,000 Industrial Technical Engineers (TSU). A proportion that has been impossible to achieve, for example, in Bolivia where a limited 7% of young people are enrolled in the higher technical level equivalent to the Spanish technical engineering (UPB, 2011). If we observe the data of the following table, we will see that the agricultural technicians that demand the Cuban economy, the technicians in mines that require the public and private companies in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile; are abundant in Spain, even registering high unemployment rates (38.5%). Also, the technicians in Industrial design required by enterprises in Colombia and Mexico have unemployment rates in Spain that are unimaginable in Latin American economies (31.7%). This is an indicator of the mass of skilled labor that Spain has in reserve.

Unemployment rates for university graduates by degree (2014)

(in percentage)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Self- elaboration with data from INE- Spain

This is a proof, moreover, of the effectiveness of the symbolic exchange that operates in the social agents by the exchange of name to an academic degree: from expert (Perito) to technical engineer (Ingeniero Técnico), a permutation of semantics that involves accumulations of symbolic capital in the form of prestige and honor. And is that the names of the titles are as important in Spain as in Latin America:

[W] hen I entered [the company in Mexico], I had put on my TSU [Superior University Technician] cards, and then my boss said to me: "You know what Miguel, I know what TSU training is all about, but better write engineer, "and my cards say engineer, because my boss says it's easier for me to be placed as an engineer than as a TSU. (Ruíz Interview 2009: 569)

These are the clues that allow us to visualize the assumptions that society reproduces around each profession as: money (economic capital), power and prestige (symbolic capital) that are associated with certain careers over others. It is not a coincidence that, for example, in Argentina, Bolivia and particularly in Colombia, the local culture of calling lawyers (LL.B) "doctor" is the reverse of the loss of prestige associated with technical degrees8. It does not matter if the degree is an intermediate degree, popular culture only recognizes the university and despises the: "institutes", "professional centers", "technical schools" That is where the Hispanic colonial heritage and the associations between profession and social category, which unites the double classification class and social caste. A study sponsored by the World Bank analyzes the situation in Colombia and Chile, in a euphemistic language, states that "students of ability and high income are the most likely to choose a university program, while those with low skill and income are the most which have a lower probability of doing so "(Ferreyra et al., 2017: 27). Translating students with limited skills and reduced income will, according to World Bank consultants, enter the "short cycle" and "low-range" educational institutions. They are also, in fact, reproductions of social differences between the middle class of cradle and the new middle class who seek a place in that social space dominated by the heirs of the petty bourgeoisie. Thus, if technical and technological training is not recognized as part of the university world, it will not be possible to advance in the recognition required by future university technicians. This are the alterations born in the lack of regulations of the state field over the academic field and the labor markets.


The Latin American social space has an economic field that demands a greater proportion of (let's talk without symbolic violence) technical engineers, technical architects, etc. However, it is difficult to attract young people to these careers with high labor demand because in Latin America the weight of symbolic capital is very high. Obtain the title of superior technician who does not "adhere" to the name of the people, so its symbolic weight is not as high as the prestige associated with formations such as the law, granted by the aforementioned doctorate "protocolary", which assumes the characteristics of symbolic violence for the social interaction of the "non-graduates" who should use the "good-day doctor; doctor-a-consultation ". In contrast to the symbolic violence, in an inverse and derogatory form, obtained by university technicians. The professional category of technician, in similar condition with the sergeant versus the lieutenant in the military world, has little status in the social space. Crucial issues that simulate details and they contribute to reproduce and strengthen the imbalance of the labor market of technological professions that the Latin American economy requires and that, in turn, contributes to the exacerbation of the irregular use in the nomenclature of university degrees.

During this essay we have seen how the power fields of Latin American states do not regulate the interaction of the educational and economic social fields causing alterations in the norms of the social space and, specifically, in the educational and labor markets. In the middle of both markets there is an exchange where academic degrees are assessed at prices of the labor force with higher education. Both capitals (economic and educational) are later recognized as a quantity of symbolic capital (prestige). The distortions in the rules of exchange between the educational field and the economic field mean that there are consequences in the levels of accumulation of the type of symbolic capital that university graduates can enjoy: social prestige by reason of their title academic name.


Barragán, R. (1992). Among polleras, lliqllas and ñañacas. The mestizos and the emergence of the third republic. In Arze, S., Barragán, R., Escobari, L., & Medinaceli, X. (Eds.), Ethnicity, economy and symbolism in the Andes: II international congress of ethnohistory. Coroico. Institut français d'études andines. doi: 10.4000 / books.ifea.2290

Bourdieu, P. (1979). Algeria 1960: The Disenchantment of the World: The Sense of Honor: The Kabyle House or the World Reversed: Essays. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1984) Homo academicus, Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI.

Bourdieu, P. (1997) Practical reasons. On the theory of action,

Barcelona, ​​Anagram.

Bourdieu, P. (1999) Intellectuals, politics and power. Buenos Aires: Aires publishing house. (Translation: Alicia Gutiérrez).

Bordieu, P. (2000) Cultural capital, school and social space. (Trad. Isabel Jiménez). Mexico: Siglo XXI. 3rd ed

Büschges, C. (1997). 'The laws of honor'. Honor and social stratification in the Audiencia district of Quito (18th century). Revista de Indias, Vol. LVIL no. 209, 55-84.

Shock Capuma, Efrén (2008). Crisis of the Indigenous Identity. Oruro: s.e.

Ferreyra, et. to the. (2017). [Ferreyra María Marta, Ciro Avitabile, Javier Botero Álvarez, Francisco Haimovich Paz and Sergio Urzúa]. Decisive moment: higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean. Summary. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons

Guerrero et. al (2015) Training Doctors in Engineering. A project in the Network towards the Promotion of Innovation in Colombia. 13th LACCEI Annual International Conference: "Engineering Education Facing the Grand Challenges, What Are We Doing?" July 29-31, 2015, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Gordillo, J.; Rivera A. and Sulcata, A (2007) Pitaq kaypi kamachiq? The structures of power in Cochabamba, 1940-2006. Peace: CESU-DICYT-UMSS; PIEB, La Paz.

Lizárraga, K. & Neidhold, C. (2011). Technical education and production in Bolivia. Bolivia: PIEB Foundation, 2011

Lozada, B. (2006) The transformation of secondary education in Bolivia. Bolivia: Institute of Bolivian Studies- UMSA

Medinaceli, C. (1972) Huayralevism: or, University education in Bolivia. Bolivia: The Friends of Book.

Ministry of Education of Colombia. (2016). Higher Education Statistics. 06/27/2017, from the Republic of Colombia.

Mazza, J. (2011) Dynamizing Employment: Progress and Next Steps for Labor Intermediation Services in Latin America and the Caribbean. IDB: Technical Notes.

OEI - Organization of Ibero-American States. (s.f.). Structure and qualifications of Higher Education in Cuba. s.l. he.

Rodríguez, G. (2003) Review "The profession is everything. The profession is nothing "In: Revista Tinkazos v.10 n.22. Bolivia: PIEB

Ruiz, E .. (2009). The university superior technicians. Educational differentiation, social stratification and segmentation of work. Mexican Journal of Sociology - UNAM, 71, no. 3 (July-September, 2009), 557-584.

UPB- Bolivian Private University (2011). Labor Market Study in Bolivia. Bolivia: FUNDAPRO

Newspaper articles

Ayala, H. (2012). The doctor's syndrome (06/29/2017), from Portafolio Website:

Baptista Gumucio, Mariano (s.f). "How to build the Bolivian University?" Article extracted from: (05/18/2017)

The Argentine newspaper. (2016). They are lawyers, not doctors. (06/29/2017), from Diario El Argentino Website: ,-no-doctores

Dillon, A. (2015). For the first time, more enrolled in Engineering than in Social. CLARIN (02/26/2015). Website:

Galdón, J. (2015) Technical engineer, European and world engineer. (07/07/2017). The Opinion of Murcia. Website:

Marcó, Osvaldo Agustín (2005) Fantasy bronzes (5/07/2017). Right Ecuador. Website:

Morales, E .. (2013). Who should we tell doctor? (07/12/2017), from Crónica del quindio Website:

Riveros, E .. (2012). Doctors lawyers? 07/12/2017, from El Universal Website:

Rodríguez, A. (2011). About the Doctor "seriously" and the Doctor "protocolar". 07/12/2017, from Universidad del CEMA Website:

Rueda, J. (2010). Importance of technical and technological education in Colombia. 07/26/2017, from Blog Website:

Sanchéz, A .. (2017). Mexico requires 1.5 million superior technicians: ProMéxico. 06/26/20


1 Magister in Human Development by Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) and Licenciado of Sociology from the Universidad Mayor de San Simón-Bolivia.

2 Rosana Barragán specifies both concepts: "it is necessary to point out that mestizos are the result of a double phenomenon. The mestizos 'biological', 'racial' or 'blood', or as you want to designate the children of the unions between Spanish and indigenous and mestizo and indigenous (cholos), and, on the other, those that are the result of mobility social either 'ascending' (indigenous from the countryside to urban and mestizo indigenous) or 'descending' (impoverished whites married to mestizos). This double origin does not follow at all a diachronic sequence, that is, first the 'blood mestizos' and then the 'cultural or social mestizos'. Both processes have existed throughout the colonial and even republican period "(1992: 3).

3 Thus, although the "Statutory honor, based on the recognition of peers and commoners, affirmed and defended by challenge and prowess, little by little is giving ground to the honors attributed by the State, which fiduciary or school title, are valid in all markets controlled by the State. [...] Said in a few words, one goes from the diffuse symbolic capital, based exclusively on collective recognition, to a symbolic capital objectified, codified, delegated and guaranteed by the State, bureaucratized "(Bourdieu 1997: 112).

4 And it is that the honor "is a typical form of symbolic capital that only exists through the reputation, that is to say of the representation that of her the others are formed, insofar as they share a set of appropriate beliefs to make them perceive and assess properties and behaviors determined as honorable or dishonorable "(Bourdieu 1997: 108).

5 Draft agreement (No. 383/2005) "By means of which a campaign is established to put an end to the 'doctoritis' in the Capital District The text is available at the website

6 The symbolic capital is a transmuted and sublimated form of the rest of the capitals: "when it is perceived through perception categories that are the result of the incorporation of the divisions or of the oppositions inscribed in the structure of the distribution of this kind of capital (for example, strong / weak, big / small, rich / poor, cult / uneducated, etc.). "(Bourdieu 1988: 108). And that the power of symbolic capital manifests itself in the daily life of social agents through symbolic violence. The symbolic power, subordinate power, is the transformed form - that is, unrecognizable, transfigured and legitimated - of the other forms of power [...] making people ignore-recognize the violence that they objectively contain (Bourdieu 1999: 72)

7 See an interesting summary of the historical changes of name of the professional degrees in:

8 The proper name is the visible certificate of the identity of its bearer through the times and social spaces [...] and of the socially recognized possibility of totalizing these manifestations in official records , curriculum vitae, cursus honorum, antecedents criminal, necrology or biography that constitute the life in totality finalized by the verdict issued on a provisional or definitive balance "(Bourdieu 1997: 79).


13 of 13 pages


Alterations in labor markets in Latin America. The symbolic capital associated with the names of university degrees
FLACSO Argentina  (Maestría en desarrollo humano)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
The need to train technicians to support the growing technological complexity is a requirement of politically as dissimilar societies as Cuba and Mexico. Two common observations to Latin American countries are: i) An excess of students of law and ii) Low number of students studying technical careers.
Sociology/honor/Bourdieu/Latinamerica/work/degrees/labour markets
Quote paper
Erik Martinelly (Author), 2019, Alterations in labor markets in Latin America. The symbolic capital associated with the names of university degrees, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Alterations in labor markets in Latin America. The symbolic capital associated with the names of university degrees

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free