Taste and embodied practice

Authored by: Melissa L. Caldwell

Routledge Handbook on Consumption

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138939387
eBook ISBN: 9781315675015
Adobe ISBN: 9781317380900


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In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu famously wrote that “taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier” (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 6). By focusing specifically on taste as what defined fields of consumption – broadly conceived as consumers, consumer goods, consumer practices, and consumer sensibilities – Bourdieu argued that taste was a form of embodied knowledge about how and what to consume, and that this knowledge was not singular and universal but rather simultaneously multiple and socially and culturally particular. Taste both unified people and the social groups to which they belonged and differentiated them from others. For Bourdieu, this work of classification and differentiation happened through the embedded structuring system of the habitus or lifeworld, often rendered simply as “culture,” that prefigured all cultural possibilities of a particular society and positioned the people who occupied that society within a self-reproducing system. Because the cultural practices and preferences performed by consumers were already predetermined by and learned from the cultural system that they inhabited (1977), the choices that people made to use particular cultural items were deeply and already internalized within their own consciousness – often so deeply that individuals were not even aware that their actions and preferences reflected cultural constraints.

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