The distinction. Criteria and social bases of taste. Pierre Bourdieu

In the present academic year 2011/12 grade Sociology at the UNED, in the subject of applied Statistics in social sciences II, the school Team has recommended the reading of the book of Pierre Bourdieu: distinction : criteria and social bases of taste as a complementary resource to the item 4: correspondence Analysis simple, and to the practice of continuous assessment.

La distinción. Criterio y bases sociales del gusto. Pierre Bourdieu

To this day I have not been able to get myself a copy. Remains sold out in most bookstores. It seems to be, as I have been able to see in some libraries online, which will launch a new reprint to the end of may this year (See: New edition of ‘The distinction’ Bourdieu); but for then, for that we did a course on Statistics applied to social sciences II at the UNED, will be too late. So, to save temporarily this lack of the additional resource recommended, what I have done is to search and collect from the Network a number of texts and other materials for which we have not had the opportunity to read it yet, we can get an idea of the text Bourdieu.

The distinction of Bourdieu is one of the most important works of sociology according to many sociologists. At the end of the last century the ISA (International Sociological Association) held a consultation among the visitors of your website to establish what were the ten books of sociology’s most important century, The distinction of Bourdieu resulted in sixth place in order of preference.

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Index of material collected:

  1. Review of The distinction of Bourdieu by David Orta González
  2. Introduction. The distinction. Criteria and social bases of taste
  3. Videos about The distinction: Interview with Pierre Bourdieu (1991)
  4. Comments on La distinction Bourdieu
  5. Other resources on the Network

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Review of The distinction of Bourdieu by David Orta González

In Athenea Digital – Revista of Thought and Social Research. No. 6 – 2004

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The Distinction is one of the greatest approaches of sociology to the social psychology of recent times, by the object of study, the method and the look that is impregnated in the voter to understand the phenomena of society at the most basic level of interaction, namely, the daily life. Bourdieu proposes to so brilliant an application of his concepts of habitus and field to the study of the relationship of the various social groups with culture, and this turns the book on its own merits in a classic study sociopsicológico cultural.

Consumption, leisure, art… all of these levels of interaction in daily life, can be explained by one thing that is very obvious but not insignificant, namely, the taste. The taste limits our preferences, our attitudes, ideas, actions, but, what is it that constrains and shapes our taste?. In principle we could say that the taste belongs to an abstract order that conforms to our standards and dispositions toward things, and that in this order, are defined the different relationships and even antagonistic to the culture, according to the conditions in which we have acquired our cultural capital and the markets in which we can get from him, a greater benefit (p. 10). This order to which Bourdieu refers is nothing other than the habitus.

The habitus is both the generative principle of practices objectively enclasables and the system of enclasamiento of these practices (p. 169). That is to say, it is the set of practices generated by the conditions of life of social groups as well as the way in which these practices envision a specific relationship with the social structure, that is, the “space of life-styles” (p. 477). These styles of life, are products of the habitus which become in systems of socially classified. That is to say, can be seen as those everyday practices that make up a style of life correspond with a habitus determined (high class, of the petty bourgeoisie, etc).

A key element in defining the habitus of a social class is the principal of the school. From this we can say, that establishes some knowledge or practices as outside the school system as the disposition towards the arts (music, painting…) in such a way that the tastes of a particular grade of schooling of the match being this negative relationship in terms of the artistic representations legitimate. There is, in the words of Bourdieu, is nothing more enclasante that works of art are legitimate which allow for the production of distinction to the infinite.

Bourdieu proposes a differentiation of classes, paying attention not only to the properties or relations of production but to the way in which these properties in relation to make up a habitus of a particular class and how it is supported by the practices of which it is product. In a concrete way, the habitus is dependent on the relationships that exist in an individual / group between the economic capital and cultural capital. Bourdieu proposes a differentiation of the habitus depending on the social class, finding in each a, a multiplicity of nuances to the overall model.

The different species of capital whose possession it defines the class membership and the distribution of which determines position in the relations of force constitutive of the field of power and, at the same time, the strategies that can be adopted in these struggles are simultaneously instruments of power, unequally powerful in reality and unequally recognized as principles of authority or signs of distinction of legitimate (p. 317).

The sense of the distinction, is based on the pursuit of maximum “profit cultural” (p. 267). This profitability is maximized through the establishment of a close relationship with the culture is legitimate and is represented by the ruling class. It is precisely this proximity which leads to a daily relationship and therefore unconcerned with acts such as going to the theatre, concerts of contemporary classical music etc, This social class is located on the social map where it intersects a large amount of economic capital with a no less important cultural capital. Is usually identified this social class by the fact that you would use frequently in one type of leisure and consumption own of “the leisure class” in Veblen, namely, the leisure and consumption ostensible. This type of activities involve an important investment in social capital and cultural part of this type of classes, and therefore, they provide distinctive elements of habitus that reproduce culture as legitimate in contrast to other habitus of class. It is the ruling class which wants to possess and own the “culture legitimate” (p. 280) and this is what gives them the highest degree of habitus distinguished.

For its part, the petty bourgeoisie can be characterized by good will, cultural. This is understood as the distance that occurs between the knowledge and the recognition. That is to say, the petty-bourgeois worship of the dominant culture, acknowledge its value as a source of social distinction, but is not involved in a close relationship with her. Frequently, the distance between knowledge and recognition, evidence of their lack of proximity with the culture of legitimate what would be demonstrated your alodoxia cultural. This concept covers all those errors of identification of the culture as legitimate in the that illustrates this distance. Culture, petty-bourgeois generates a series of by-products of the culture legitimate, to put it briefly, they are cheaper and produce the same effect. The jazz in contrast to the opera (though lately, and according to that types of jazz, let’s talk, can be considered as taste own culture legitimate), the disclosure in place of the science… it Is the petty bourgeoisie which it plays a role more seriously in relation to the dominant culture, since it is the end trying to achieve and thus achieve greater levels of social distinction, but, on the contrary, of the big bourgeoisie can’t afford a relationship in a relaxed atmosphere with the culture because there is no familiarity traditionally acquired. It is for this reason, that the expectations are focused on the educational system as a source of supply of this relationship, and delegated, thus, in many cases, the satisfaction of cultural that they can’t get into the present in successive generations that they can fulfill the desire of ascension (and distinction) social. For reasons of space, I shall not dwell here on the nuances and differentiations that exist within each social class.

For its part, the habitus of the working class is defined by the choice of the necessary. That is to say, of the “necessity made virtue’. We can notice, here, how the how the habitus of class can be linked to the conditions of life of which it is a product, so even though, the material resources available to them increase significantly, the practices will be conditioned by this choice of what is useful, what is functional, what is in the ultimate “is made for them.” The elections in the area of culture of this social class are justified, then, in those practices that consuetudinariamente have been established as characteristic of the people of that class. From there comes the rule of the principle of conformity, which has its explanation in the sense that it is a wake-up call to the people of popular classes that tend to be own shares of the habitus bourgeois. Living in a “closed universe” (p. 388) in which the actions serve as a reinforcement of the tradition and as a negation of the avant-garde, which, in many cases it is perceived as a frontal attack on the traditional order of “their” things, and effect of the destructive practices of the group itself.

These three models of reality in which we divide the habitus are the perfect example of how even the smallest details go unnoticed, that occur in social interaction, in any field, respond, and certainly to a proper order of each class that is perceived as the “natural” in the bosom of the same. The lining of common sense of these practices and choices gives the habitus of the group, with a consistency very difficult to transgress. Furthermore, it suggests a hierarchy of enclasante of habitus is unconsciously assumed as a mental structure in the different social groups and that, again, appears as the natural, obvious, or even desirable.

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David Orta González

Fall 2004
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Introduction. The distinction. Criteria and social bases of taste

Apparently editing chatelaine of The distinction. Criteria and social foundations of taste, Pierre Bourdieu, by comparing it with the French edition, La distinction, Les edition de Minuit (1979), it lacks the introduction. Thanks to the selfless work of Sociology Contemporary , and the translation of Oscar Martínez Gómez for the English version, we can read the introduction in Spanish:

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Interview with Pierre Bourdieu (1991) – Part 1

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Interview with Pierre Bourdieu (1991) – Part 2

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Comments on La distinction Bourdieu

The following document is an article from Matthew L. Saidel published in Practices of the Craft. Research and reflection in Social Sciences, n° 5, December, 2009.

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Other resources on the Network:

  • Index of The distinction. Criteria and social bases of taste
  • Summary on The Distinction: Pierre Bourdieu – For students of Sociology of Art
  • The sociology of culture of Pierre Bourdieu

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