Monday, April 24, 2017
Sociology of Culture
Prof. Gabe Ignatow
Review Sheet for Final Exam at 8am Saturday May 6 in class:
The final exam will cover the following course readings on the syllabus:
- Lamont et al. Cultural and Moral Boundaries in the United States
- Gretchen Purser, The Dignity of Job-Seeking Men
- Richard Peterson and Roger Kern, Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore
- Bethany Bryson, Anything But Heavy Metal
- Will Atkinson
- Sam Friedman, Cultural Omnivores or Culturally Homeless?
- Peterson and Anand, The Production of Culture Perspective
- Richard Peterson, Why 1955? Explaining the Advent of Rock Music
You should be able to define and discuss all of the following terms (this list is not exhaustive):
difficult and obscure music
popularized “legitimate” music
simple, repetitive structures
passive, absent participationhierarchies of legitimacy within genres
humor and social class
humor omnivorousness and divided habitus
dissonance and uneasiness
dryness and subtlety
Production of culture
U.S. Copyright Law
Technological changes45 rpm record
Friday, April 21, 2017
DiMaggio and Mukhtar, "Arts Participation as Cultural Capital in the United States" (bottom of page)
Richard Peterson and Roger Kern, "Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore" (bottom of page)
Snobs and Cultural Omnivores
Richard Peterson and Roger Kern, "Changing Highbrow Tastes: From Snob to Omnivore"
When we read Bourdieu, we may sense that he’s not entirely right when it comes to the contemporary scene. Do ambitious people really sip wine, go to museums, etc to lift their status and distinguish themselves from others?
Isn’t that all a bit too Parisian, and too old?
Peterson and Kern discuss why this “snob model” is right for certain locations and certain historical periods, such as the late 19th century in the United States.
Anglo-Saxons wanted to distinguish themselves from recent immigrants from Italy, Russia, Ireland, Poland, Greece and so on. They wanted to distinguish their “highbrow” culture from immigrants’ “lowbrow” culture.
Sociologists interested in the arts, media, taste, status, high culture and so forth sometimes refer to Bourdieu’s approach as the “snob model”
But the snob model does not seem to capture the tastes and interests of elites in America today. Highly educated American elites today are likely to be involved in a wide range of low-status activities.
Rich white suburban teenagers listen to rap music. College students listen to world music, Latin music, Afro-Caribbean, rap, popular music.
P&K discuss highbrows, snobs, and omnivores.
Highbrows – like elite culture – classical music and opera
Snobs – highbrows who do not participate in lowbrow (cultures of poor marginal groups, such as blacks, youth, isolated rural people) or middlebrow (commercial, mass cultural) activities
– a perfect snob refuses to engage in any lowbrow or middlebrow activities
these are very rare in the USA – a study in Detroit in the 1960s of 1,400 people did not find one perfect snob
you could probably find a few in New York City, certainly in Paris
Omnivores – enjoy a wide range of lowbrow and middlebrow cultural activities
Remember Bethany Bryson’s article on Musical Dislikes -- patterned tolerance and multicultural capital
P&K find that “omnivorousness is replacing snobbishness”
Omnivores do not like everything, but they are open to appreciating everything
In a way it is opposed to snobbishness, which is based on rigid rules of exclusion
Discriminating omnivorousness replacing snobbishness reflects multiculturalism and relativism in society over ethnocentrism
Omnivores appreciate music differently than other people. They do not identify with it.
Why the shift from snobbishness and to omnivorousness
devaluation of snobbishness because of widespread availability of highbrow culture in the media
rising education levels
geographic migration and social class mobility have mixed people holding different tastes
mass media presents lots of cultural materials to many people
value change from group prejudice, supported by racist social science, to tolerance and diversity
art world change from 19th century European scene, where theorists in the European Royal Academies believed that there were absolute standards of beauty and vulgarity
This consensus was swept away by market forces and aesthetic entrepreneurs in the 20th century (impressionists, Picasso, expressionists, minimalists, postmodernists)
Obviously the value of art was a product of its social circumstances, not of the art itself
generational politics Youth culture has become a viable alternative to “adult” culture
globalization and new elites for whom inclusion and omnivorous is probably a more useful way to create distinction than exclusion and snobbishness.
“Anything But Heavy Metal”: Symbolic Exclusion and Musical Dislikes
Music has many roles in social life, creating solidarities and encouraging political resistance.
People engage with music in many different ways in different areas of life.
Music becomes part of people’s identities, the way they identify themselves and draw closer to or else distance themselves from other groups and individuals.
While social exclusion is a well-understood sociological phenomenon, “symbolic exclusion” is the topic of Bryson’s paper. Symbolic exclusion is, in a word, taste.
Symbolic exclusion is a form of Lamont’s boundary work, the work of drawing lines between ourselves and others so as to establish our place in the social world.
Bryson examines musical exclusion and musical tolerance
From Bourdieu, we expect that elites will behave in a snobbish manner regarding music and musical tastes, excluding, or discriminating against, certain types of lowbrow music
Yet the opposite seems to be true: highly educated people are more musically tolerant than are people with less education, that is they are more open to more different kinds of music
Yet she finds that educated people are more tolerant generally but also very intolerant to low-status music, or music associated with uneducated people, such as country or gospel music in the United States
She calls this patterned tolerance
She refers to multicultural capital
High Status Exclusiveness (wealth, education, occup prestige)→ dislike more genres (not confirmed)
Educated Tolerance Education→ fewer dislikes
Symbolic Racism: Racist Whites will dislike non-white music (confirmed)
Patterned Tolerance: People who dislike few genres will dislike those types of music associated with people with less education
College students don’t listen to, or they say they dislike: heavy metal, rap, gospel, country
There exists a “Tolerance Line” between high-statues cosmopolitanism and low-status group-based cultures.
Examines the omnivore thesis in light of interview data with 55 people from Bristol, UK, ages 18-53, on their life histories and lifestyles
Focus is on music; for Bourdieu nothing affirms one’s class...and more infallibly classifies than taste in music.”
The dominant classes: express a taste for difficult and obscure forms of music, particularly classical
The petite bourgeoisie: aspirational, consume popularised forms of legitimate (difficult, classical) music
The dominated: prefer simple, repetitive structures; passive, absent participation
Omnivore thesis: the dominant classes will express a taste for variety and eclecticism, have a ‘cosmopolitan habitus’
Atkinson argues that these dynamics are evident within genres more than between them
There are ‘hierarchies of legitimacy’ within genres:
difficult versus light classical
underground versus pop rap music
In-depth interviews revealed:
- the importance of childhood musical experience, particularly learning to play ‘noble’ instruments
- a result of boureois parents’ ‘concerted cultivation’ of their children’s leisure time
- popular, rock music from their childhoods
- still stratified in terms of artistic rather than commercial
- e.g. Dylan, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello for the dominant class
- Bon Jovi, Shania Twain, Madonna, Eminem, Michael Jackson, Queen for the dominated
- The dominated expressed an ‘aversion to the alien’ (classical, abstract intellectual pop is terra incognita)
- The dominated expressed a desire for physical release
- “Cultural goodwill” of the petite bourgeoisie
- Like classical music compilations, film scores
Cultural consumption study of humor, which is understudied in sociology.
Is humor class-based? Are elites comedy omnivores?
SNL, Seinfeld, HBO comedy
Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy
Friedman used a survey of British comedy taste from a comedy festival and 24 follow-up interviews.
Only found omnivorousness among the upwardly mobile who had a ‘habitus clive’ or divided habitus.
Omnivorousness was less a purposeful choice than a results of lifecourse trajectories that left respondents with affinities to both lowbrow and highbrow comedy.
These upwardly mobile (first generation college graduates) were neither wholly comfortable with the comedy of their upbringing (too racist, crass) but also lacked the linguistic confidence to convert their new “legitimate” comedy tastes into cultural and social capital.
Combination of aspiration and status anxiety leads to “uneasiness” and “dissonance” due to “contradictory matrices of socialization” (from Bernard Lahire). They often placed themselves in uneasy social situations.
The dominated have an embodied disposition of ‘disinterestedness’ or a ‘disinterested aesthetic’ without emotional or moral “interest” in a work of art.
“culturally privileged respondents used their embodied reserves of cultural capital to read and decode comedy in ways that are knowingly inaccessible to those from less privileged backgrounds.”
Appreciate “dryness” and “subtlety” in humor.
The dominant engaged in what can be called “class racism” in “pathologizing” the dominated via a range of aggressive and disparaging aesthetic, moral, and political judgments on the basis of lowbrow comedy taste