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The eyes of the beholder: aesthetic preferences and the remaking of cultural capital

Hanquinet, Laurie, Roose, Henk and Savage, Mike ORCID: 0000-0003-4563-9564 (2014) The eyes of the beholder: aesthetic preferences and the remaking of cultural capital. Sociology, 48 (1). pp. 111-132. ISSN 0038-0385

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0038038513477935


Bourdieu’s Distinction (1984) has been highly influential in sociological debates regarding cultural inequality, but it has rarely been considered a theory of aesthetics. In this article we explore empirically how the modernist framing of Bourdieu’s aesthetics needs to be rethought in the context of contemporary aesthetic change. Drawing on a survey of museum visitors in Ghent, Belgium (n = 1195), we use Multiple Correspondence Analysis to analyse what aesthetic dimensions are important when people contemplate works of art. We find that the familiar Bourdieusian opposition between popular (based on beauty and harmony) and highbrow aesthetics is still important. However, the content of highbrow aesthetics has changed, now privileging ‘postmodernist’ dimensions over modernist ones. We can also detect another dimension that favours a socially reflexive art compared to a detachment of art from social preoccupations, which is not recognized in Bourdieu’s account.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Authors
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2013 08:47
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2024 07:48
Funders: Ghent University

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