After omnivorousness

Is Bourdieu still relevant?

Authored by: Omar Lizardo , Sara Skiles

Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415855112
eBook ISBN: 9780203740248
Adobe ISBN: 9781135008895


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A fundamental ambiguity runs through the theoretical foundations of the sociology of taste. Most contemporary analysts consider Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction as the foundational work in the field. Yet, the approach taken by empirical researchers in relation to this work ranges from outright dismissal as an outdated theoretical position to the acknowledgement of partial influence in need of being transcended. This ambiguous relationship to Bourdieu’s work has become even more salient in light of the empirical discovery of patterns of omnivorousness – taste among high-status persons that cuts across the fine and popular arts divides. This is usually interpreted as posing insurmountable difficulties for Bourdieu’s original account, according to which elites reject popular culture and should be expected to consume only ‘high’ culture. In this chapter we argue that this portrayal of Bourdieu’s work is based on widespread misunderstandings regarding the conceptual foundations of his theory of taste. We show that the depiction of the expected patterns of taste of high cultural capital persons offered by Bourdieu is much more compatible with recent considerations in the sociology of taste than has been acknowledged in the literature.

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