Introduction to Part I

Authored by: Laurie Hanquinet , Mike Savage

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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One of the main themes of this handbook is to explore the implications of Bourdieu’s work to the sociology of art and culture and to position his thinking against rival approaches. In some respects, Bourdieu’s importance hardly needs emphasis. His account of French lifestyles and cultural taste in Distinction (1984) is one of the single most important monographs written in post-war sociology anywhere in the world. In emphasizing what he terms ‘the social critique of the judgement of taste’, Bourdieu fundamentally affirmed the ways in which art was implicated in the making and contesting of social relationships more widely. His fundamental move was to take the ‘pure’ aesthetic judgement not on its own terms – as a claim about universal standards of taste and value – but as embodying forms of privilege which precisely through lifting value out of its context thus empowers those with the capacity to be distant from the world of everyday necessity. Through this deft manoeuvre, the work of artists (and intellectuals more generally) is seen as exhibiting forms of cultural capital which are complicit with privilege and power. His arguments can thus be deeply unsettling to those working in the cultural sector, as well as to those schooled in the humanities disciplines, which can from within this purview, be seen to be implicated in cultural capital itself.

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