Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

Synopsis

Is NYPD Blue a less valid form of artistic expression than a Shakespearean drama? Who is to judge and by what standards?

In this new edition of Herbert Gans's brilliantly conceived and clearly argued landmark work, he builds on his critique of the universality of high cultural standards. While conceding that popular and high culture have converged to some extent over the twenty-five years since he wrote the book, Gans holds that the choices of typical Ivy League graduates, not to mention Ph.D.s in literature, are still very different from those of high school graduates, as are the movie houses, television channels, museums, and other cultural institutions they frequent.

This new edition benefits greatly from Gans's discussion of the "politicization" of culture over the last quarter-century. Popular Culture and High Culture is a must read for anyone interested in the vicissitudes of taste in American society.

Excerpt

The additions to this book are more updates than revisions, for it remains the same sociological study of popular culture and high culture, and of their place in American society, that it was when it was first published in 1974. It is also still a critical study, defending popular culture against some of its attackers, particularly the opponents of cultural democracy.

What has changed, however, is America, which is the prime justification for this edition. For one thing, many writers now question whether the popular culture-high culture distinction still makes sense. The new Introduction argues that it does, because the distinction reflects and expresses, albeit in imperfect fashion, the country's socioeconomic hierarchy. There is no simple correlation between the "higher" and "lower" taste cultures, as I call them, and the higher and lower classes, but what people choose for their arts and entertainment is still influenced by their socioeconomic resources, symbolic as well as material.

The subjects of the book thus continue to be both culture and class. In an era when some social thinkers are so well-off to believe that class is no longer a major relevant concept, the book could thus . . .

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