English Issue > 2005

An Annual English Selection - 2005 - 46 - Supplement

Social Stratification of Musical Tastes : Questioning the Cultural Legitimacy Model




pp. 123-154


In sociological study of artistic tastes, the behavior of the upper classes is usually characterized by a penchant for “highbrow” arts and simultaneous rejection of popular arts and the products of mass culture. However, the trends brought to light by analysis of cultural practices survey data do not entirely confirm this representation. What distinguishes upper class behavior is in fact not so much familiarity with “legitimate” culture, as is often claimed, but diversity of stated preferences, in contrast to members of lower-status classes, whose preferences appear more exclusive. A contrast can therefore be established between the traditional model of cultural legitimacy and a model in terms of eclecticism. This article seeks to assess the import of the latter model on the basis of data on preferences in music from a 1997 survey of French cultural practices. First, French practices in this area unequivocally confirm the relevance of the eclecticism model, though that model appears more an extension of the cultural legitimacy model than a refutation of it. Second, the preference typology constructed through analysis of the data, and distribution of individuals by social factors among five music-listener profiles defined on the basis of that typology, forefront the importance of generation differences and uneven distribution of cultural capital and musical competence.



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