Cultural capital and tastes

The persistence of Distinction

Authored by: David Wright

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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Taste is variously invoked to describe a physical sensation, aesthetic sense, or moral sensibility, and it can be a characteristic of people or of things. It is a foundational concept in the sociology of culture, connecting accounts of the centrality of the choice and preference for goods in the struggle for status across the twentieth century with the various reflexive freedoms available for the construction of late-modern lifestyles. A pivotal reference in the development of this strand of study is Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, arguably the most influential and controversial piece of cultural sociology yet published. “Cultural capital” emerges from Distinction as the definitive Bourdieuian concept. This chapter will concentrate on the changing role of the concept in how processes of taste formation have been analyzed. I will argue for the continued centrality of Bourdieu’s schema for the understanding of contemporary cultural production and consumption despite a range of transformations in the processes of taste formation themselves and in the ways in which these processes are researched and understood.

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