Cultural capital and tastes

The persistence of Distinction

Authored by: David Wright

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the continuing influence of Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction and the concept of “cultural capital” in understanding the social significance of taste. It elaborates the place of cultural capital in Bourdieu’s schema, then outlines some empirical and conceptual challenges to the coherence of the relations between social and cultural hierarchies that it helped to establish. These include research into the concept of the “cultural omnivore” and the changing significance of disinterested aesthetic contemplation as a marker of cultural capital. The chapter then considers how researchers have drawn on Bourdieu in comparative international research and how technology and global flows of people and things seem to change the rules of the game of culture, allowing it to be played out over wider terrain than Bourdieu anticipated in the France of the 1960s. Despite these qualifications, the relationship Bourdieu establishes between cultural capital and taste and inequality retains considerable explanatory power.

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