6

Culture, Status and Distinction

People compete about culture and they compete with it. The very definition of what can legitimately be called culture - with a capital ‘C’ - is one of the sharpest bones of contention: is a pile of bricks Art, or is it a pile of bricks? Answer: it’s Art when it’s in an art gallery (or is it?). Here it is the boundaries of the field - the authority to define them and their substantive content - which are at stake.

Bourdieu has consistently attempted to offer a ‘scientific’ alternative to a Kantian aesthetic philosophy in which the purity of aesthetic contemplation derives from moral agnosticism and a disinterested or aloof perspective. According to Bourdieu this is neither ‘pure’ nor ‘disinterested’. It is in fact a disposition which comes from affluence. It is ‘the paradoxical product of conditioning by negative economic necessities - a life of ease - that tends to induce an active distance from necessity’. [1] It is the same affordable vagueness about the need to make a living which produces a cavalier attitude towards education on the part of upper-class students (who can afford to do badly at law, or brilliantly at a non-vocational subject such as philosophy; they can even afford to do badly at philosophy, although that might just look like vulgar conspicuous consumption). The model of pure aesthetic judgement which Kant philosophised in his Critique of Judgement is a key element of the dominant cultural arbitrary of western societies. Modernism may have generated conflict about who defines what as Culture or Art, but the basic presumption - that there is something to be defined - remains. This conflict may, in fact, have hardened the boundaries of taste: we live in a world of supposed postmodern eclecticism, but never have more ‘experts’ spent more time telling us what to think about matters Cultural.

-128-

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Pierre Bourdieu
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Key Sociologists 2
  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgements 7
  • 1 - A Book for Reading 9
  • 2 - Anthropology and Structuralism 24
  • 3 - Experiments in Epistemology 45
  • 4 - Practice, Habitus and Field 66
  • 5 - Symbolic Violence and Social Reproduction 103
  • 6 - Culture, Status and Distinction 128
  • 7 - Uses of Language 152
  • 8 - Using Bourdieu 175
  • Reading Bourdieu 182
  • Name Index 185
  • Subject Index 188
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