Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste(1979) is a sociological study by Pierre Bourdieu on culture and taste in France, the product of an empirical investigation carried out between 1963 and 1968.
In Distinction Bourdieu proposes that those with the greatest cultural capital (non-economic social assets, such as education and others that allow social mobility in broader terms than mere income) are those who determine what constitutes good taste in a society. Those with less general capital accept this taste and accept the difference between high and low culture (classical and popular) as something legitimate and natural, and consequently they also accept the restrictions on the existing equivalences between types of capital (economic, social, cultural). Those with less general capital are not able to acquire considerable cultural capital, because they do not have the means to do so. This may refer, for example, to the inability of some to describe or understand a classic work of art, a product of the characteristics of their habitus .
Bourdieu argues that the working class expects objects to have a function, to serve something, while those who are not economically pressured can have a pure appreciation of the object, without relating it to a possible use for everyday life. Accepting these dominant characteristics of taste is, according to Bourdieu, a form of " symbolic violence ." That is, the fact of considering these distinctions between tastes as natural, and believing that they are necessary, denies the dominated classes the possibility of defining their own world, which puts those with less general capital at a disadvantage. Moreover, even when the dominated social classes come to have their own ideas about what it is "good taste "and what is not," the aesthetics of the working class is dominated aesthetic, which it is obliged to always defined in terms of the aesthetics of the ruling class . "
The cultural capital and the economic capital: According to Pierre Bourdieu a person's aesthetic choices create class fractions (class-based social groups) and actively separate one social class from the other social classes in a society. Thus, predispositions to certain types of food, music, and art are taught and instilled in children, and these specific tastes then guide them to their appropriate social positions. Therefore, self-selection to a fraction of the class is achieved by prompting the child's internalization of preferences for objects and behaviors suitable for him (as a member of a given social class) and the development of an aversion towards preferred objects and behaviors. by the other social classes. In practice, when a man or woman encounters the culture and arts of another social class, he or she feels "disgusted"
Therefore, taste is an important example of cultural hegemony , of how class fractions are determined, not only by the possession of social capital and economic capital , but by the possession of cultural capital, an insidious social mechanism that guarantees the social reproduction and cultural reproduction of the ruling class. On the other hand, because a person is taught their tastes at an early age, and they are deeply internalized, such social conditioning is very difficult to change, and they tend to permanently identify a person as coming from a certain class. social mobility , which in turn impedes social mobility upward. In this way, the cultural tastes of the ruling class tend to dominate the tastes of the other social classes, thus forcing individual men and women of the dominated classes to conform to certain aesthetic preferences, so as not to risk social disapproval of looking like people. crude, vulgar or insipid.
More on Bourdieu's work:Pierre Bourdieu – The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic - summary and review