‘Consumers middle and identify how certain taste
‘Consumers of cultural goods, and theirtaste for them, are produced, and at the same time to describe the differentways of appropriating such of these objects’ (Bourdieu, 1984). During our lifetime, our unique lifestylesand consumption practises are moulded around the perception of ‘class’, consequentlyindicating that the most prosperous class is more likely to control ‘culturalpower’.
Some taste and practices are apparently better than others whichdepends on class power. But the question we should be asking is which ‘class’controls this type of influence? Duringthis essay, I will evaluate the struggles maintaining cultural power betweendifferent classes, through taste and practises. Furthermore, to support myclaims, I will use several critique responses and academic resources to helpelaborate this question. Throughout thisessay, I will analyse the distinction between two different classes, workingand middle and identify how certain taste and practises have impacted on theseclasses, plus their reason for this choice. By clearing up their ideas, it’s important to familiarise Bourdieu as mymain scholar by using his perspective on taste. From this, I will be able to understandand explain how class uses cultural power to achieve their goals by usingappropriate examples.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, became the most powerful thinkers inthe 21st century. One of his concerned writing was based on the’Dynamics of Power in Society’. Later, he established a theory known was ‘CulturalDeprivation Theory’. This philosophy indicated that ‘the higher-class culturesare better, when compared to working class cultures’ (Bryant, 2015).
Hence, upper class and middle classbegan blaming working class ‘for the failure of children in education’ (Bryant, 2015). However, this iswhere Bourdieu contradicts his own theory as later, he believed that peopleshould not see higher class as the ‘superior class’ and assume that this rankis better than working class. Bourdieu uses school as a prime example toexplain how he believes that the failure of school in working class is based onthe fault in the education system, not the ‘working class culture’ (Bourdieu, 1984).
Following this, Bourdieu believed that’consumers of cultural goods, and their taste for them… describe the differentways to appropriating such of these object’ (Bourdieu, 1984). From this quote, it elaborates how oursociety struggles for acceptance and rightfulness, which reinforcing that theclass that controls the cultural power, is considered as the most prosperousclass. But how does this explicate cultural power? From the article ‘SocialClass and Symbolic Violence’ by Elliot Weininger, he states that Bourdieuargues that ‘legitimizing theatricalization…always accompanies the exercise ofpower’ (Weininger , 2002), therefore, if asuccessful class starts imprinting taste and practices as legitimate orillegitimate, it starts emphasising which taste are right, wrong and better forour society. Consequently, this pushes other taste and practices out the waydue to the dominance of cultural power. According to Bourdieu, ‘the verylifestyle of the holders of power contributes to the power that makes itpossible, because its true conditions of possibility remain unrecognised’ (Weininger , 2002).On the other hand, cultural power has dominated our lifestyle. Bourdieuevaluates the conception of consumption practises and states that thesepractises are how a class culture is replicated. Nevertheless, our consumptionpractises look at individual’s lifestyle, identifying how we did certain thingsdue to our class.
Therefore, implying that our lifestyles and choices are fashionedaround the type of class we have lived in society which we have grown into andbecome who we are today. Moreover, to explain the perception of consumption practises, the brandNike which is very popular today, demonstrates class struggle through the ideaof legitimisation. Taste is between a class struggle arguing which taste isbetter. Bourdieu uses ‘Structural Constructivism’ to define how we arecataleptic to what appears right therefore we just accept them and believe thatthis is how things should be. For example, using your hands to eat instead ofcutlery at a restaurant. No one hadintroduced a rule or law stating it is wrong? so how come people frown uponthis action? Another example could be drinking alcohol from the bottle insteadof using a glass.
Taste judgement iswhat we do every day, completing against the other class. However, someone fromworking class would see this action as normal and would not be bothered aboutthis. On the other hand, someone from upper class or middle class would seethis action as disgusting and rude. We start following these culturalbehaviours as it becomes part of our nature.
This supports that upper-classtaste has become the legitimate one, hence their taste is much better thanworking class. Making a taste ‘right’ is not a natural thing, as it becomes ‘symbolicviolence’ which means people begin feeling embarrassed and accepting that thistaste is not right, as a result, changing their values and cultural beliefs totry and fit in with the class that holds cultural power and receiving thatsocial approval. This emphasis the struggles of cultural power and highlightshow this impacts on our generations today. For example, if the working class gofor the wrong choice or taste, this will affect many generations includingchildren and grandchildren therefore, marking them as ‘losers’. From this,upper class again will control cultural power, but this generates a robustdivision between the two classes, highlighting the struggles for society. Inthe journal article review in 2004, ‘A social critique of the judgment oftaste’ by Andy Blunden, he claims that Bourdieu compares taste to a game as he stronglyemphasises that to understand taste, you need to recognise the rules to thegame, ‘cultural appreciation is reduced…to a status game’ (Blunden, 2004) In the reference toAndy Blunden article, he quoted that Bourdieu perceives the ‘social worldthrough the lens of fields and habitus’ (Blunden, 2004). ‘Habitus’ allows us to ‘shape the way weunderstand and act’ (Richardson, 1979) in our everydaylifestyle, plus ‘habitus’ is essential to understand how differentcharacteristic of each class generates our actions, thoughts and our choices wemake.
Bourdieu uses this concept of habitus define the ‘socially constitutedsystem of dispositions’ (Weininger , 2002). As Bourdieu quotes,’taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier’ (Blunden, 2004). An importantconcept of habitus is that taste is social and not individual, for instance, weas humans are ruled from the class we come from therefore, taste is embedded tous from a very young age for example, the food we like, the type of style welike, what we dislike etc.
Habitusallows us to learn about what class we are associated with, which helps us tocategorise certain things such as, what my style is. This is known as’transobulous’. An example of this would be designer clothing. People fromupper class can afford expensive branding clothing, therefore if we areassociated with this from an early age, we begin believing that this is ourstyle. However, a person from working class would think their style issomething different such as casual wear from ‘normal’ clothing shops.
However,this again generates cultural struggle as working class will try hard to workso they are able to afford these brands and try and fit with the society and bepart of something they are excluded from. Bourdieu uses four forms of capitals which are (Economic, Cultural,Social and Symbolic). These forms help people to establish where they fit inthe society which is demonstrated through their lifestyle choices. The firstone is Economic Capital as this focuses on wealth and how much money you own.This is aimed for families who send their children to private schools etc. Cultural Capital is for the both rich andpoor.
For example, you may be low on economic but rich in CC (culturalcapital). Social capital looks at doing the right thing, allowing people tomove up in the system. Lastly, Symbolic capital focuses on approval andrespect, which brings other capitals together. Miller 1994, stated that tasteis drawn by Bourdieu… by different experience of class in modern society. Habitus provides humans with class belonging,yet from this, we can allocate different taste and practises to differentclass.
This legitimises the idea of taste, therefore establishing culturalpower. Now, as Bourdieu became aware that things are beginning to change, forexample, middle class is becoming more diverse. He introduced two conceptsknown as ‘Bourgeoisie’ and ‘Petite Bourgeoisie’. The term ‘Bourgeoisie’ focuseson taste that are allied with the rich in two forms, economic and culturalcapital. These individuals taste is based on formal as there is distance frompopular taste (working class). For instance, a glass of fine wine showsmorality. The rich would enjoy the taste of the wine rather than just drinkingit for affect.
Some middle/working class would argue that all wine has similartaste. Another prime example would be food, as for the bourgeoisie class, theyhave constant worry of what they going to eat as for the upper class and middleclass, they take their time to enjoy their food without having to worry aboutanything. The new middle-class morality is based on fun and pleasure forinstance, they are more likely to eat diverse culture foods and have apleasurable experience. This forms a separation amongst the middle and lowerclass. Conversely, habitus influences your lifestyle based on what you eat andhow to eat or what you drink etc. It creates a legitimate taste and practisesas it concentrates on pleasure but through a formal way which creates divisionbetween the classes therefore, giving upper/middle class cultural power. Working class have the inclination to eat atlost cost food places for example, fast food restaurants. The alterations in tasteand practises can be defined only as a class taste.
This demonstrates thestruggle of power between the different classes as everybody perceives thingsin a different way. As a result, it shows that cultural power is in the handsof bourgeoise which allocates working class taste as illegitimate due to theirlifestyle and the choices they make. There has been some critique to Bourdieu’s claims as in the articleBourdieu on Status, class and culture 2004, Axel Honneth’s criticises Bourdieuas he does not answer the questions that would help us for example, ‘We need atheory of movement for fields. But is ‘field’ a concept amenable to a theory ofchange? Do individuals change their habitus or the field through theirstruggle? Or do fields change objectively in response to the disclosure ofcontradictions or as a result of interaction with other fields?’ (Blunden, 2004). This demonstratesthat people disagree with Bourdieu concept of taste and practises as itstruggles with the idea of cultural power and dictates society. To conclude, I have explained the different types of taste withinsociety and class and how meaningful some taste are which working class cannotafford, such as food and wine.
I have learnt that taste and practises candefine your social statues which challenges cultural power. Overall it may seemthat cultural power is given to bourgeoise but yet working class still havetheir own culture and as things are changing, certain choices they make arebecoming legitimate. The downfall to cultural power is that the rich frown uponthe society and individuals which makes working class feel embarrassed. I haveevaluated Bourdieu as my main source and looked at his unique ideas regardingto taste and practises. However, a problem to his theory is that he focuses onthe rich capital rather than looking at what the rich lacks in certaincapitals. As most capitals need each other so it can become the cultural power. In addition, the answer the question, I believe that taste and practisesof classes are meaningful in its own way and because they are part of this ideaof struggle within cultural power.
Cultural power looks at the legitimate tasteand practises in the society which is created from us and our choice we make.