READING GUIDE TO: Bennett, T., Savage, M., Silva, E., Warde, A., Gayo-Cal, M., Wright, D.  (2009) Culture, Class Distinction, London: Routledge.

by Dave Harris

This volume indicates the results of a large ESRC study, with a questionnaire, 200 interviews or focus groups.  The data is available at–capital–and–social – exclusion/project–summary.php.  The research was undertaken 2003 – 05.


Is Bourdieu’s work still applicable to modern Britain?  A large national random sample was drawn, together with an ethnic boost, followed by a large national programme of interviews and focus groups, to try and identify any national specificity in contemporary Britain.  There was also a need to get a better view of gender, the diversity of households, ethnicity and national boundaries.  There is been considerable restructuring of both capitalism and class since Thatcherism, which raises the issue of the connection between class and culture.  Culture may now be more  constitutive of class than was the case with the Nuffield studies.  Class is no longer always central to cultural capital.  So Bourdieu’s notion of the relational nature of culture is now more complex than the connections with class in Distinction.  There are also implications for the habitus, which is likely to be more complex and contradictory, and to be affected more or by interactions with class, gender, age and ethnicity.  Cultural capital therefore can be disaggregated rather than tied to class.  This will lead to different types of cultural capitals which are mobilised in different combinations.

So there are theoretical innovations as well as methodological ones.  The authors still intend to use correspondence analysis to map the field, but they are not just interested in social positions: they want to map ‘tastes and practices of specific individuals within that space’ (3).  There will still be  patterns in reading, music, visual arts, television and sport, but also ‘different intensities of engagement’ (4).  Qualitative date are needed to round out these patterns in specific fields.  The fields themselves differ significantly, for example music and visual arts are those most sharply divided (by class).  However, gender and age rather than class provide the basis for distinctions in most of the others, including sport.  There is a need to focus specifically on the middle classes who are now able to range across leisure activities, and who do not display a commitment to a distinctive aesthetic.  A distinctive working-class culture has been eroded, including a sense of deference and inferiority.  There are notable specific qualities produced by gender and ethnicity. 

Chapter one

Bourdieu undertook anthropological study of his own society, with an increasing focus on the notion of cultural capital, displayed in work from Outline…  to Distinction.  This work however is both French and dated.  The methodology can be criticised, for example where small percentage differences lead to claims that there are significant boundaries.  However, the work is still much cited as an example of a sociological analysis of culture, and a reassertion of class.  It is about distinction, rather than some timeless qualities of cultural matters, about relations inside a cultural field rather than specific analyses confined to education or culture.  There are three basic axioms:

(A)   Cultural capital.  The difference between legitimate or high culture vs. more popular forms is implicated in social relationships.  Culture can be seen as capital, accumulated and circulated.  It is embodied in education and in the cultural system and institutions such as museums.  It is also misunderstood by those who possess it.  There are different aesthetic dispositions, with cultural capital offering a neutrality, distance from urgency, and an interest in practising activities as ends in themselves (a full quote from Bourdieu is used PP. 11 and 12).  There is a regard for pure forms, producing in France an interest in the avant-garde, or, leisurely and luxurious conspicuous consumption.  [I’m not sure that this interest in form necessarily leads to the avant-garde, although that may be a specific interest.  This is important because I think an interest in form might be detectable in the cultural omnivore as well—see below].

(B)   Homology across fields.  The relations inside the fields constitute them.  Fields are therefore autonomous rather than tightly determined by class, but not fully autonomous.  Homologies occur across fields, shown in the general principles of classification [in the aesthetics?].  They are usually polarised according to esteem or honour, and further esteem stems from whether they are connected to additional resources, for example political or economic ones [this is the great strength of the education field, for Bourdieu and others, because educational diplomas are connected like this].  Distinction was about the empirical patterns that are displayed.  The issue is whether there are similarities in the cultural worlds  of Britain.

(C)   Reproduction and inheritance.  The habitus generates a reproduction of both economic capital and education.  Families provide cultural forms which have been internalised  and then turned into educational credentials, especially  ‘ability to handle “abstract” and “formal” categories’ (13).  [Exactly, it is this abstract ability rather than a specific interest in avant-garde].  Reproduction works in this way for the class system, but what about gender and ethnicity as well?

Bourdieu opposes positivist traditions or excessive philosophising in studying cultural patterns.  His critics have accused him of being aloof and elitist.  There are issues raised, such as the need to pursue greater flexibility and different estimations of honour; to look at individuals; to investigate dissonant values in order to stave off social determinism.  For example, his work on masculine domination has been criticised for seeing it as normal and universal.  Bourdieu has largely sidestepped feminist work.  His work is also been challenged by Callon and Latour on the issue of networks as hybrids.  Bourdieu’s response has been to increasingly focus on the notion of field rather than the other two concepts.  The autonomy of the field has only led to suspicions of cultural relativism, however.  There is been a definite defensiveness in Bourdieu’s later work.

Bourdieu on social stratification and education has been picked up in the UK, but differences in context have led people such as Halsey to doubt the role of cultural elitism say in selective grammar schools.  There is been more optimism over educational reform in the UK and the U.S., despite doubts and debates about the amount of social mobility.  Recent work, including that of Reay, shows how parental influence is still important in school choice and in assisting educational careers, one way of estimating parental cultural capital.  Skeggs has made similar points, but has included gender as an important issue.

Bourdieu’s work in cultural sociology has been adopted by a whole cultural sociology movement in the USA, despite criticisms of the more deterministic views of cultural capital.  Instead, a complexity of cultural divisions has emerged.  The school found that economic capital is still very important, more so than cultural capital in the USA, and that there was more shared ‘middlebrow’ cultural tastes there (studies are cited page 18).  However, this work is based on respondent accounts, which may be simply rationalisations [given what Bourdieu says about ideology and misrecognition].  However, the notion of the cultural omnivore has emerged as well, as in issue to be researched using, say, social surveys.  Diversity might also mean a greater cultural tolerance, and the emergence of a new form of cultural capital [grazing].  Eclecticism might now be cool?  The data here is misleadingly coherent, however, and there may be more than one group of omnivores (19).  There may also be racialised divisions, or nationally of our eyes had forms of cultural capital—but there has been  no testing so far of the actual field.

Bourdieu has had considerable influence in media or cultural studies.  He was once a keen supporter of British cultural studies and the CCCS (20), but not after the full ‘cultural turn’ which seemed to him to be excessively philosophical.  British cultural studies borrowed from him, though, especially in seeing the intellectuals as a kind of class vanguard.  On the whole though, they preferred Foucault, and split with Bourdieu particularly over the famous reading of Kant in  Distinction, ‘the analytical architecture of Distinction’ (21).  British work has led to specific analyses of hierarchies of cultural industries, however (Hesmondhaulgh) and did help to bring back statistical analysis.  The gramscian redemption of popular culture, as in the work of Fiske, led to criticisms of Bourdieu as intellectual and too universal, underestimating resistance [and Thornton is seen as a source here!] Morley’s work on the audience [another famous gesture towards resistance] only confirms the importance of a middle class habitus, however (22).  The general importance of British cultural studies as being to introduce playful and subversive readings, and to suggest that with the emergence of the new media, there may be new kinds of cross cutting links between fields.

Overall, questions arise about the dated nature of modernist culture in Bourdieu.  The complexity of social groups now includes nations and households.  Even so, the critics have been too specific.

Chapter two

There are problems with the development of research methods which have become detached from the distinctive Bourdieu context.  Bourdieu is interested in a relational rather than a positivist survey.  If the habitus was not so unified, there would no longer be a close relation between the social classes—so relations are the issue.  Bourdieu uses multiple correspondence analysis, rather than commit himself to seeing culture as an effect of underlying determinant variables.

Distinction is based on the notion of classes with coherent and different sets of tastes.  Evidence was needed that transcends the difference between quantitative and qualitative.  The later works sees the habitus as more open though, featuring ‘generative schemes’ (26) rather than unified dispositions, and homologies between the various positions.  The exceptions only confirm the central values, for example those who enjoy ‘slumming it ‘(26), and those who are capable of ironic readings [compare the pessimism about educational rebels --here ].  A combination of the volume of capital and the ratio of economic to cultural capital structures the space.  Three eventual class habituses emerge: ‘the bourgeois sense of distinction,  variants of the “cultural goodwill” of the petty bourgeoisie, and the working class choice of the necessary’ (26).  This is the basic framework to process all the other factors like age or gender.  There are problems, though, especially the effects of cultural training and whether the discourse itself is affected by class.  Bourdieu denies full cultural autonomy, and autonomous influences, including gender or race or religion.  He also chooses the most distinctive cultural elements, producing ‘ideal typical class figures’ (27).  In this sense, distinctiveness is chosen rather than emerging from general significance.  His own data shows shared values as well, for example a liking for Impressionism divides the classes, but far less so for landscape painting (27) [an example of a boundary problem].  However, do similar tastes actually still mean different dispositions, or perhaps different interpretations according to art training?  The whole area needs to be studied empirically, and recent studies of cultural omnivores seem more promising.

Bourdieu on Kant shows the effects of class dispositions, especially disinterestedness, and pure aesthetic perception vs. the choice of the necessary.  Critics here include Goldthorpe (2007).  Cultural capital emerges from middle class values and educational resources which can be mobilised for children.  There have been criticisms as well of the excessive significance of the habitus as a ‘master mechanism’.  It might be better to disaggregate the factors rather than to assume that there is one basic kind of cultural capital. 

Bourdieu himself identified three subtypes of cultural capital: ‘institutionalised, embodied and objective’ (29), that is educational credentials; bodily factors such as demeanor, beauty, accent; tasteful possessions.  He later added ‘technical capital’, vocational skills and competencies, sometimes passed on in families, important for the working class.  Others have suggested emotional capital, sub cultural capital [with an odd  reference to Thornton here which seems to neglect her point that much of this is actually provided by commercial companies], or ethnic know how (30).  [While we are here, why not Fiske or De Certeau on popular cultural capital?  Perhaps they convey no economic advantage?].  Other practices can become sources of distinction too, such as elite sport, where there is no necessary disinterested aesthetic [this seems a bit odd, surely is the symbolic meanings of such elite sport that can be important?].  There is also the question of being able to dominate whatever is valued in the education system, which could be scientific and technical knowledge as much as cultural knowledge.  Then there is the ability to browse like cultural omnivores, showing an ‘openness to diversity and a cultivated agility with respect to judgements of taste’ (31).  [My argument is that this requires a disinterestedness, and maybe attention to form, at least in the more intellectualised variants].  Not all are equally profitable in economic terms.

Bourdieu opposes naive empiricism and he is critical particularly of Lazarsfeld’s orderly approach working from hypotheses through methods, data analysis to findings (31).  This approach ignores the actual relations which validate the facts.  He shows this through a self criticism of his own work on museum visitors—[and see the remarks on the survey material in Academic Discourse].  He began Distinction with the notion of a disinterested aesthetic, and used multiple correspondence analysis on survey data to show the social space and field.  Multiple correspondence analysis is also used by Lewin on field analysis, before the emergence of national surveys with atomised individuals.  Bourdieu has allies here in actor network theory or ‘case centred sociologists’.  The social is not produced by a series of independent variables which are autonomous and causal.  There is similar work on clusters in social life in America (33).  Bourdieu is against any attempt to abstract single variables from networks and relations.  There are some UK theorists who have similar objections, especially on the arbitrary abstraction of causal relationships from social life (33).  With multiple correspondence analysis, there are no prior causal hierarchies.

 Social relations provide the origins of cultural preferences and academic success, with cultural capital as the key connector,, and not some direct connection between social class and attainment, which would involve socioeconomic determinism.  Cultural capital is the key relay, and this also necessarily 'culturalises' social class (34).  The famous diagrams in Distinction show the connections.

However, multiple correspondence analysis is not to be reified.  It gives the impression of a geometric space with the variables distributed in it, but in reality social relations are more fluid as in actor network theory.  Emotional intensity features in the zones in those spaces [a reference to Deleuze], and it is possible to have intense disagreements even if the positions are close spatially [a hint of Hopper here].  Statistical separations are therefore not the same as cultural ones, and sometimes statistical relations exaggerate homologies and differences.

Bourdieu tends to see these relations in structural terms, as objective structures based on 'different allocations of capital' (35).  However, there is no tightly determining structure mapped 1 to 1 to empirical patterns [it's more like a structural limiting type of structure, as alluded to by all those Althusserian terms like structures in dominance?].  It seems that Bourdieu meant economic capital to be the final determinant of the class structure.  Latour identifies a dualism, though, and is more interested in how networks solidify on the same level.  Bourdieu is still claiming that we need a social science to disentangle these relations, but Bennett et al are no longer so keen, and prefer to see Bourdieu's work is offering 'looser, more pliable and contingent sets of relations' between concepts.

Surveys have been developing since the classic Blau and Duncan 1967 study of class and social mobility, and came to their peak with the Nuffield studies.  The definitions of class used often simply ignored the cultural dimension.  Bourdieu, in Distinction, surveyed Paris, Lille and a smaller town, sampling 1217 respondents, chosen to illustrate class polarisation.  Bennett Et Al developed a national random survey, as we have seen.  Their focus groups were used first.  This was followed by household interviews, which overestimated the elite.  The questions were more to explore gender, including matters such as the characteristics of mothers as well as fathers.  Economic assets were considered as well as income, and social capital, estimated by looking at friendships and networks.  They defined cultural capital ‘as manifested in particular kinds and frequencies of cultural participation; in particular tastes (including dislikes as well as likes); and in particular kinds of cultural knowledge’ (38).  They wanted to avoid over-emphasizing legitimate culture, and so skewed their studies towards television, music, and popular rather than established genres.  They left out leisure and holiday practices.  Bourdieu himself was legally unable to ask about ethnicity (38), but their ethnic boost also tapped flows of labour and ethnic cultural books and so on.

So they were going for empirical richness and diversity, rather than theoretical determinism, and field analysis.  They used both multiple correspondence analysis, qualitative analysis, and multivariate analysis, to examine different kinds of cultural capital.  They were after complex connections rather than '"master" variables' (39), although they did discover certain 'core forces' (39).

Chapter three

This chapter offers an overview of the seven fields being studied: music, reading, visual arts, television, film, sport, eating out, and the homologies and cleavages between them.  One difference is apparent immediately, between those who are active and those who are detached.  There are links with class, education inequality , age and gender.  Multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) is used to show groups and clusters and produce cultural maps.  These patterns are produced without prejudgments of determinants, unlike multivariate analysis which attempts to examine the effects of causals [yet presumably there is no presuppositionless analysis?  I think it likely that theoretical selections are involved].  Supplementary variables can be superimposed.  Data is produced as a ‘” cloud of individuals”’, which further enables individual cases to be selected, and qualitative data about those individuals added to survey responses.

There seem to be four main axes on the cultural maps: engagement/disengagement; contemporary/commercial vs. established; likes and dislikes for genres such as a fictional and personal vs. robust and factual, including sport, which can be summarised as ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ preferences; voracious vs. moderate cultural use.  These findings are then compared with Bourdieu.

The multiple correspondence analysis involved:

(1)    Extracting items from a questionnaire on the basis of theoretical interests [!], relating to participation and taste across all seven fields.  There were 17 questions on participation and 24 on taste, producing 168 ‘active modalities’ [that is actual empirical clusters out of all the possibilities?].  The questions actually varied according to the fields being investigated, so there were only 3 questions on sport compared to 12 on music [it is not clear why, and the authors admit lower down that they might have overrepresented the effects of music]. Preferences are established in different ways as well – participants could directly name them, or choose them from a list.  Participation was classified into three main types—highly, though, and never.  modalities of taste and practice were therefore established.

(2)    1529 individuals were surveyed, and 35 excluded on the grounds of poor or no responses.

(3)    The data were produced in the form of tables, with one row for each individual, and codes for either yes or no to the questions.  MCA sorts this data into clusters according to their ‘symbolic distance’: ‘if everyone who like to westerns also like soap operas, the two modalities would be located in the same position [on the cultural map], and if no one liked both, then they would be located at diametrically opposite points on this figure’ (46).  [Presumably, they mean if no one chose to like both together?]

(4)    The details of the survey appear in appendix two.  Items were provided from previous analysis, from an expert panel, and from focus group results.  MCA can produce artificial clusters, however and is affected by the predominance of particular questions.  There were 41 questions in all, 17 on participation and 24 on taste, producing 198 modalities, 61 on participation and 137 on taste.  168 modalities were selected further, by eliminating uncommon combinations, or those involving don’t know responses.  The team then checked to see if the data were skewed in particular fields.  Then they chose four axes which explained most of the variance (82%), and displayed pages of raw data for each item.  Sociodemographic categories were further added as supplementary variables.  The team also noticed clustering among individuals, a cloud of individuals, which has only rarely been used before.  This cloud was further divided into sub clouds, for example by gender.  Sub clouds were summarised as mean points [to enable further analysis, especially that linking with socio demographic variables].  Variants both within and between sub clouds were noted.  Certain ‘landmark individuals’ were isolated and qualitative data about them added to the analysis.  The team did more conventional analysis too, for example constructing scales of cosmopolitanism and omnivorousness [I’m still not sure about this, whether modalities in this case were empirical, and whether they were active modalities only]

(5)    The analysis so far suggests that participation rates differentiate people most strongly in music, visual arts and reading [this is shown in the material for axis one, which also reflects social class differences as we shall see].  Taste appears to be more important on the second axis, especially in relation to music and film.  Taste appears again as an important dimension on the third axis, especially in television, film, reading and sport.  Both taste and participation feature on the fourth axis.  It looks as if music dominates the first axis in particular, but there are homologies across fields, so that participation in music and reading are aligned on this axis but not across all the four.  Nevertheless, music does discriminate above the mean in all four axes, while television watching, eating out and sport are not very discriminatory [across all 4?]

Cultural maps are displayed on pages 124-5. These show for example [on axis one] that there are clusters, that attending the opera frequently clusters with eating at a French restaurant regularly, attending concerts (including rock concerts), attending theatre, and liking Impressionism.  There is strong dissociation with eating fish and chips, and never eating out, having no books, and never going to museums.  Participation therefore seems important here.  However, even here the real opposition is not simply between high and low participation, more a matter of regular vs. zero participation, an indication of being either engaged or disengaged (49).

The second axis is about taste rather than participation.  Differences in music tastes appear, for example a contrast between those liking urban/heavy metal/and rock and those liking classical music and country and western [weirdcluster here -- classical AND C&W? Could be an ambiguity in reporting the results again -- urban fans are distinct from BOTH classical and C&W, or is there a cluster of classical and C&W? ].  There are connections here with television preferences and liking for sport.  There is also some evidence for the division between established and contemporary culture, especially in music.

Axis three shows the importance of taste rather than participation in social division, with clusters like preferences for romance films, soaps, portrait painting and TV drama vs. preferences for landscapes, television documentary, sport, war films and news.  There are genres associated with ‘personal concerns and home centred activities’ vs.  ‘Factual programmes, recording public or outdoor activities, like sports’ (50).

Axis four reflects differences in participation and taste, reflected in different levels of involvement in visual culture and music.  The data show a slight preference for established tastes and ‘more intellectually distinguished and legitimate cultural forms’ (50).  There is a pattern of moderate vs. voracious engagement.

Overall, there are some homologies, and some fields seem more divisive than others—types of television or films are not very divisive, but music is.  There is a great deal of overlap or convergence as much as division, however.  Some tastes seem to have no social significance at all—for example eating in Italian restaurants.  This is unlike Bourdieu, with no clear division between highly and popular culture.  There is a lot of disengagement.  There seemed to be four axes rather than three.  There seems to be a division between established and commercial tastes, but not one between established and avant-garde.  There is no real sign of the importance of a Kantian aesthetic.  Instead, it is a matter of personal rather than public, indoor rather than outdoor, and voracious rather than moderate patterns.

These patterns do not seem to be generated by underlying factors of class income or gender.  Nevertheless supplementary variables can be superimposed to explain the mean points:

(A)   Educational qualifications seem linked to the issue of engagement or disengagement

(B)   Social class also has an effects, although this is weaker than that for education.  The team are using an occupational measure of class [current occupation], and there is a more pronounced effect on participation rather than taste.  The same effects are detectable when looking at class of origin too.  So ‘class matters.  Whatever social advantage might arise from heavy engagement in cultural activities will accrue to those who are highly educated, who occupy higher occupational class positions, and who have backgrounds within the higher social classes’ (52).  Tastes seem to be less effective, but there still seemed to be class effects for example on eating out, tastes in reading, attitudes to rock music (53).

(C)   Age is associated with the variance on axis two.  The older participants dislike commercial or contemporary culture.

(D)   Gender emerges on axis three, and has an effect on tastes, for example for television programmes, including a gendered preference for sport on television.

There are combinations of these patterns when we look at individuals.  Ethnicity and geographical distribution are also important.  The axes showed different effects of class, age and gender, and therefore differences emerge with Bourdieu’s work.  For example, the liking for heavy metal is ‘at the east of axis one, the north of axis two, the south of axis three…  It is subject to multiple determinations’ (54).  Further, averaging the data overlooks individual patterns, these are not picked up by MCA, nor the existence of significant minorities. Individuals can also be detached from their class interests -- potentially 'located [in some cases in] any of the three classes' ( 55)

Class is still important.  The analysis of the cloud of individuals shows the effects of class structure.  A three class model seems to fit the data best, but class is both a social and cultural matter here.  This provides differences with the Goldthorpe schema: when we add cultural differences, Goldthorpe’s ‘lower managerial [groups appear] in the intermediate class, and lower supervisory in the working class’ (55), and the proportions of the population in each class differ as well, with a smaller service class (24% of the population), 30% intermediate, and a larger working class (46%).  There is lots of overlap, however, and age seems to emerge as one important variable to explain this overlap.

[Overall conclusions are provided usefully on pages 56 and 57].  There is some support for the importance of cultural omnivorousness, which might be a new mark of distinction.


Chapter four

It is worth looking at individuals as a further examination of the coherence of the habitus.  We can locate individuals on cultural maps and use follow-up interviews, and these can then be used to check on consistency as well, overcoming some of the errors of survey analysis.  It is then possible to test the artificiality of the results produced by MCA—if lots of individuals are discrepant, despite having a similar location, there is a problem.  Further, individual analysis refines our understanding of axes, for example the meaning of participation.  In particular, we find that cultural disengagement is not the same as social disengagement, and that there are ‘few clear articulations of snobbery or elitism’ (59).  Instead, there seems to be an appreciation of a wide range of cultural activities.  There seems to be no significant role for the Kantian aesthetic.  Instead there are differences:  familiarity with diverse cultural activities vs. enthusiasm for escape from the daily grind.

22 individuals did follow-up interviews, across the quadrants of the cultural maps.  They were selected according to their educational qualifications, whether they had children, their geographical location, and their type of household.

(1)    Cultural disengagement was not linked to social disengagement.  The culturally disengaged were people like a farmers’ wife, who was busy with various charities and family work, had lots of friends, entertained at home, and had established various social networks.  There seemed to be no decline of social capital as predicted by Putnam, for example.  The culturally engaged by contrast [identified from questionnaire responses on things like knowing film directors or visiting the theatre] included a woman who was physically disabled and therefore had ‘practical difficulties in socialising informally’ (62).  She made intensive use of the Net and electronic forms of participation.  Work and family obligations seem to decrease cultural participation, [and leisure opportunities as we know].  Social engagement seem to persist though, including some ‘local and kin-based connections not captured by our survey instrument’ (63), and ‘home based cultural activities’ (64).

(2)    Tastes seem to vary between contemporary and established.  One example was an elderly widow who was very conservative, with a middle class background, who could be compared with women who watch more television and cannot avoid commercial forms.  These two cases varied on axis one, however.  The younger women also seemed keener on commercial television and culture.  Gender differences similarly placed men in clusters around things like liking televised sport.  Class emerged here too.  There was some evidence of cultural omnivorousness.

(3)    There seemed to be little snobbery.  There was clear confidence in handling cultural diversity [connected to some capacity to intellectualise [and focus on form, I wonder?], for example the confident use of genre labels, and an awareness of the social background of writers.  One respondent was an academic.  There is an interesting discussion on the various likes and dislikes of realism, 67, 68.  One respondent seems to have disliked unrealistic television, but with no signs of a Kantian aesthetic.  The tastes were more about the arbitrary nature of cultural forms and the problems of multiple genres.  There was some evidence of cultural indifference or inertia—respondents said they just like food, or they just dislike some films.  A ‘down to earth’ taste tended to be held defensively (68).  Other respondents were clearly interested in escapism, especially when watching soaps.  These were ‘unrealistic’ for the educated middle class, but ‘appealing to the less qualified working class’ (69).  There was some discussion of different qualities of escape—historical realism, for example was defended as partly educational (70).  Such knowledge can be converted to an asset in conversation, or ‘in their social fields’ (70).  Some people seem to have the cultural confidence to interrogate realism.  Some were interested in criticism as well, for example the respondent who said that Sartre was ‘too convoluted’ (70) [informed criticism or the usual anti-French intellectual stuff?].  There is a discerning and reflexive cluster, and this seems to be connected to omnivorousness, but there seem to be few snobs.  There was no simple split between detached and practical preferences.  The educated middle classes were not keen on abstract forms  and prefer their version of the ordinary or real.  Overall, ‘Cultural capital is expressed as valuing eclecticism’ (71), and is associated with reflexive judgment.  The others do not remain simply passive but are interested in escapism, preferring cultural activity that is ‘used for escape, fun, entertainment or instruction’ (71).

[The team acknowledge that the Bourdieu  is right about cultural confidence as a distinguishing factor, but do not apparently see how this might be linked to the Kantian aesthetic, or for that matter, the ‘deep’ approach in education]

[Although I did not take notes of all the individual chapters, the authors have kindly provided a resume of the next part of the book]:

The cultural fields in modern Britain are not as clear nor as contested as in Bourdieu.  The data on the body shows the practices here are so heterogeneous that they constitute a very loose field with few oppositions.  Even in sport there are ‘only modest differences’ (170), and there is a general ‘aspiration towards the “active body”’ (170).  Music is much more clustered with oppositions that map on to class, age and ethnicity.  Visual culture is the second most contested field, divided by participation and taste.  Reading shows more complex patterns—a large minority are active book readers rather than readers of newspapers and magazines.  For the media, there is differential participation in cinema and different tastes, which include art and alternative films and a liking for literary adaptations and costume dramas.  Television also shows some difference in rates of watching and tastes, which can be classified as education vs. entertainment. Physical attendance is still important for both music and visual arts.  Differences arise for different modes of production and reception, in music and visual arts specially.

Overall, the fields represent an ‘assemblage of personal, technical and institutional forms’ rather than in Bourdieu’s formulations, despite his hints that public funds for legitimate cultural forms might be threatened by the market (171).  The pattern of distinctions in Bourdieu show differences between the dominant and the dominated, and  divisions within the dominant, described in terms of heteronomy (links with the other resources especially economic capital), and autonomy (with relations specific to the field).

Age is an important dimension in the British study: ‘Different generations act as agents for particular institutional and technical forms’ (171).  Age is the basis for considerable contestation.  By contrast, there has been a blurring between elite and popular forms, except in the visual arts—for example, avid book readers are omnivorous; canonical works are now mainstream, especially in visual arts and reading [this view is derived from high levels of recognition of named artists.  However the study reminds us that recognition is at a high level in surveys, but less so in interviews].  There is particular importance in the emergence of ‘colour supplements, tourist brochures, or poster reproductions and the like’ (172), which means the canon is now heteronomous, ‘having become part of a culture of mass reproduction’ (172).  The major distinction is between commonly known vs. minority artists [this seems a rather static description of the music field, which often shows cycles of minority innovation becoming mainstream again, as in, say Chambers]

There is no real snobbishness in culture.  There is omnivorousness.  Thus the debate about artists shows, there are no signs of a new cultural competence in managing the flow of forms’, and being able to comment on them.  There might be an emergent leading edge group, generating intense debate, excitement and involvement, especially in music.  Similarly, the enthusiasm for the cinema four for modern literature is compared with the passivity of watching television.  The dynamic and active associations of new forms includes new technology.

But there is no avant-garde formation, unlike Bourdieu.  There may be signs of commercialism and can modification.  Above all, there is no stronger institutionalised tradition to react against.  There seems to be an interest not in abstraction but in combinations of forms and genres (173).  Elite positions are not well defined—they are associated with the older generation, who do show little participation in popular forms, and apparently display an interest in networking rather than in culture for its own sake.

Chapter five

Music is the most divided and contentious cultural field.  The team asked about eight genres, and the results showed clusters, and also offered a test for omnivorousness.  There is still a big divide between classical and popular music, other clusters formed around different genres—for example, rock led to high levels of engagement and excitement, classical produced different repertoires and arenas for socialising—‘the ghostly memories of legitimate cultural capital’ (75).

Overall, music is very popular.  Knowledge of music or musical products is widespread compared to the fields of arts and reading.  Attendance at musical events is common.  Music seems to be interwoven with every day life, unlike reading.  But there are ‘long-term and deep tensions’ between legitimate and popular forms.  Elite musical taste was the most abstract for Bourdieu, the most removed from necessity, and the one that displayed best a preference for form rather than content, in strong opposition to popular forms.  These days, there has been an expansion and proliferation of musical types and an association between music and sub cultures.  Are there now more musical omnivores?  More sampling of different musical genres?  Personal play lists that mix and match different genres?  There are still some boundaries, however, for example heavy metal attracts only hardcore fans in the USA.  Nevertheless, highbrow taste now admits jazz.

Earlier studies faced methodological problems [and Goldthorpe appears again—Chan and Goldthorpe (2007)].  They often followed Bourdieu in focusing on asking about elite music, sometimes with minor deviations.  Popular music is classically the field of cultural studies and qualitative data.  This study is more fine grained, however and uses both quantitative and qualitative methods.  One problem is whether genres have changed, and whether it might be better to use specific cases, or to study new hybrids such as ‘light classics’, or  ‘easy listening’.  It is difficult to see whether dislike is based on non consumption.  Overall, the classifications themselves need to be unravelled rather than treated simply ‘as a neutral precondition for study’ (78).

Categories were developed to deliberately include more popular genres.  Respondents were asked to rank their preferences on a 7 point scale.  Definite dislikes soon emerged, revealing polarisation and antagonism—for example, rock and classical music both have lots of scores of seven and lots of scores of one.  Overall, classical music is the most liked.  There are high levels of dislike for heavy metal, electronic, world and urban.  Specific works were then rated, and respondents were asked if they had actually listened to them or heard of them.  There seemed to be lots of ignorance, while the ‘standards’ were widely known and liked.

Cluster analysis was then used to test the general axes.  Two of the eight clusters show signs of omnivorousness, defined as those cases where half or more of the total of eight genres were liked.  Cluster three was very keen on rock and world, and very hostile to country and western and classical.  Cluster four liked country, classical, rock and world, and disliked electronic urban and world.  Other clusters show collections of solid fans—for urban and then country and western.  The country and western cluster is only just a cluster with an overall score close to the mean.  Other clusters mildly like some genre but actively dislike others, so that strong dislikes can also be the basis for clusters:  ‘dislikes are highly symbolic’ (81).  Heavy metal was the most commonly disliked, then  electronic.  There was not much overlap between classical and other genres, but instead a pattern of likes for closely neighbouring genres: ‘large amounts of “short range” omnivorousness…  But also a clear indication of a powerful divide between popular and classical music enthusiasts, which is only crossed in one cluster’ (81).

There is no clear link between omnivorousness and membership of the educated middle class: the most omnivorous cluster has only its fair proportion of professionals, with a slight over-representation of graduates, but they do tend to be older.  Age is also more divisive in other clusters, more so than either class or education.  The very youngest groups (18-24) are found in the urban liking cluster, and so are many members of ethnic minorities.  Generally ‘popular music appeals to the young—classical music appeals to the old’ (82).

The qualitative data shows there are lots more divisions and subdivisions within popular music, but not so in classical.  There is an overall support for classical music though, but a complexity of definitions—classical can mean ‘classic’ versions of one’s own national or ethnic music compared to newer forms such as synthesis or fusion.  There’s a considerable ‘ambiguity about the boundary between classic and classical’ (83).  White respondents were often antagonistic and expressed a distance from classical, which was seen as pretentious: others were able to reclaim classical as ‘ordinary’ (83) or domesticated.  There is some evidence that classical music is preferred by graduates—‘classical music remains a disproportionately middle class taste’ (84).  [This is one example of many cases where there appears to be a straightforward contradiction in the account—the relevance of class is denied earlier on, and yet it reappears here!  It seems as if the team are almost reluctant to let class go!  There is a difference between more precise quantification for the negative results, and the use of rather weasely words in the bits where class reappears: after the section on age, we are told that no other sociodemographic variables are important, but here we are told the classical music is disproportionately middle class!  Unless it is the case that the quantitative data shows no particular importance of class, but not the qualitative?]

Working class respondents don’t deny the importance of classical music but they do try to subvert it.  Elite individuals were more knowledgeable and participated more.  Middle aged respondents tended to like sixties or seventies rock and pop.  Enthusiasts were often not so knowledgeable in interviews despite their preferences in surveys—for example they seemed unaware of many composers [so they are bluffing in surveys, or giving answers that they think are respectable?] There is a least one clear omnivore in the sample of individuals.  There also lot of examples of discrimination against popular music which is seen as vulgar, simple repetitive and so on.  There are lots of comparisons between classical and contemporary music as well.  The escapist qualities of classical are admired, including its ability to be ‘soothing’ rather than exciting, an example of easy listening rather than the harder forms.

[In  a list of specific findings…] Rock and pop enthusiasts are often knowledgeable.  There are subdivisions within the group, leading to ‘contestation, dispute and excitement’ (88).  There is some tendency for class and education to generate more sub genres.  Enthusiasm spans ethnic identities, but ethnicity can add to the divide between traditional and contemporary versions. Participation, in the form of playing instruments, is a minority taste.  Those who do play tend to be more musically engaged.

Elite individuals stress the importance of social gatherings found at opera or ballet rather than enjoyment, but this is not so when considering commercial concerts, especially ‘auratic events’ with unique star performers, held in big stadia and involving some expense.  Some participants enjoyed going to festivals, others even globe trotted to follow particular bands.  However mechanical recordings are also important.

So, overall, there is quite a range of musical tastes and forms of participation but also some key boundaries.  For example, both heavy metal and country and western tend to be stigmatised, classical is clearly separated from contemporary, and classical is often a more passive choice.  The picture of commercial music is similar to that described by Thornton in  her account of sub cultural capital [that is, lots of fragmentation into audiences rather than classic sub cultures, based on preferences for particular styles of clubbing in her case, and largely provided by commercial promotion, the bit that Bennett et al don’t seem to mention].  Enthusiasts for classical music do tend to use it to do general sociality and attending a performance is still important for social capital—it is a heteronomous rather than an autonomous field in  Bourdieu’s terms, but it is still no longer at the focus of intense social divisions, nothing like Bourdieu on the avant-garde. 

Contemporary music is more intense, so it can generate tensions ‘to some extent along the lines of class and educational qualifications, but more importantly on the basis of age and ethnicity’ (93).  Education seems important within younger groups.  Classical music attracts more limited enthusiasm—it ‘attracts respect and is a symbol of cultivation’ (93).  Contemporary music shows sub cultural enthusiasm, but shows no signs of conversion to other forms of capital.  It solidifies sub cultures and families but is not connected to economic capital.  This could emerge in the future, because there are signs that middle class groups are able to begin to legitimate some types of contemporary music.

Chapter nine

Bodily appearance is also a basis of classification, signalling gender, age, race and class.  There are still differences in terms of health status, and the ‘”crisis of obesity” seems to have brought with it a revitalised, moralising, class based discourse of shame and blame about body shape’ (152).  Physique is combined with clothing as a basis of distinction, although there are more options than the old ‘class uniforms’ (152).  Bodies can be seen as cultural capital, and the management of the body can produce differentiation.  Exercise and diet are important, but so is ‘dialect, accent, inflection of the voice, vulgarity of expression, facial expressions of contempt, body posture and movement…  [As]…  indications of “attitude” linked to social position’ (153).  [And beauty—also mentioned by Bourdieu?].

There is a new consciousness affecting body modification—Bourdieu called it ‘Californianisation’ (153), and it seemed to have a particular appeal to those members of the middle class ‘deficient in legitimate cultural capital’ (153).  There seem to be different body management types, including participation in sport and PE, the management and modification of the body including the use of clothing and food consumption.  All these have different symbolic functions.

Bourdieu says that one type of cultural capital is the embodied form, but sometimes he means human skills, sometimes hexis.  The latter is particularly important in Distinction—‘manners and mannerisms, posture and bearing, body shape and presentation, and accent’ (154).  It is largely class based for Bourdieu: we invest in our bodies, or we use sport to maintain an exclusivity.  It is assumed that there are homologies with music cinema and art.  Bourdieu collected data on expenditure and also made notes on personal appearance, but the latter is too complex for Bennett et al, and they decided to measure participation and spectating in sports, and the frequency and type of eating out.  [They did not have the rich data on the effects of the bodily hexis as Bourdieu did in Homo Academicus].  Although these factors have some effects, they are still ‘the least powerful of the discriminatory fields’ (155).  However, tastes seems more important than participation in this field, and there are strong gender differences, including liking for sport on TV.

(1)    Sport and PE.  Both are an important social and economic activity, with lots of attributed social functions.  It is the issue of social classification which is of interest here, and there have long been class connotations, for example rugby playing, or the changing soccer audience.  Knowledge of sport is also a form of bridging capital (156) [and economic capital too, according to Stempel].  Spectating is popular, in football, tennis, snooker, rugby, or formula one racing.  There are gender differences, for example women prefer watching tennis, and class differences, for example in watching rugby.  In terms of tastes, the working class groups like social sports, younger people like football, women dislike sport in general but they are better with outdoor forms.  The time-use surveys quoted [one done at Essex Uni - the MTUS]show that there are on average 11 minutes per day spent in active participation, that 44% of the sample have no involvement in sport, and that there is considerable variation in PE.  47% of females never do sport, and participation declines with age.  Taking part in sport is positively associated with educational qualifications, and also related positively to class: upper class groups do more—for example 25% of higher professionals never do sport, but 59% of routine manual workers never do it, partly because of differences and material resources, but it is ‘more likely to be a function of differential concern about body maintenance’ (157).  Walking and keep fit are the most popular activities, absolutely for women, and after soccer for men [there is a table on page 157].  It is similar with categories of playing sport and taking exercise—for example, 36% of those in class one never go to the gym, compared to 68% of routine working class members.  The liking for exercise in its own right is connected with education and social status or class—‘ascetic routines of training for training sake’ seem to contribute to wellbeing (158).  There is some definite hostility, including some from men with high cultural capital.  There is a general concern for health, an interest in exercise to release stress for the educated middle classes.  Styles of participation are connected to perceived benefits: benefits listed by these respondents rated fitness first then relaxation then sociability.  Only 8% of the respondents valued competition, and this tends to be a male preference: small employers and the self employed were particularly keen to [a kind of continuation pattern in Parker’s terms?].  Participants often expressed regret about declining participation, but blamed work and family commitments.  There was a lot of solo exercise [a plus for Putnam here? Bowling alone and all that?] .  People rarely  regularly participated in competitive sport, but did so with more regularity in PE, because exercise needs to be planned (159).  Women took a more instrumental stance towards exercise, and preferred it rather than sport, but did not mention weight or bodily appearance: they tend to stress body maintenance rather than fun.  ‘Class patterns are not strongly marked’ (160), although ‘cycling, squash and golf are marked as middle class’ (160).  [Ambivalence again?] Education affects overall participation rather than the choice of sport.  There are some ethnic variations, but gender variations are greater.  Women like swimming, keep fit and walking, and particularly dislike cricket, rugby and fishing, table tennis, skiing and water polo.  Men like football and golf, but have more varied preferences for their second sport.  Gender does interact with class—‘women in paid employment are far more likely to do exercise…  white collar [women] go to the gym and do daily exercises more often than working class women and this is accentuated among women in higher professional occupations’ (160).  69 per cent of women in routine occupations’ do no exercise.  Youth and education are also important.  When it comes to body appearance, there are patterns of preference for tattooing, piercing and tanning, with a higher percentage of women involved in all these but not  body building.  Age affects piercing and tanning.  Tattoos are avoided by graduates and ethnic minorities.  Male participation is increasing but still ‘almost half’ had done none of these activities.  Patterns of preference for styles of dress include a general preference for casual  and comfortable styles, with preferences for designer wear being quite low.  1/3 sample like smart clothes though.  Cultural capital is associated with being able to choose particular types of dress according to the occasion.  Only a few respondents with particularly high cultural capital try to make a distinctive impression through clothing, however, and most want not to stand out.  Ethnic minorities are different in having for example a choice of traditional clothing.  For complementary medicine, 45% had tried alternative therapies, mostly for sports injuries.  Then they had tried chiropractice or acupuncture:  women were slightly more likely to do this than men, old rather than young, educationally qualified rather than unqualified.

(2)    Eating.  A few reported following weight loss diets, which could reflect a kind of permanent watchfulness.  Eating out was popular—62% overall eat out once a month, and only 4% never do.  There may well be a class dimension, revealed in tastes—the big indicators are eating fish and chips at one end or French cuisine at the other.  A frequent preference for French cuisine clusters with tastes in art and music among the elite.  Gender does not seem to be important.  Focus groups have reported having a low income and needing to dress up as an important issue affecting dining out.  There’s a general preference for Chinese and Indian Restaurants among the working classes, and a fear of not fitting in in posh restaurants.  Ethnic minorities had other variations.  Thus overall, the range is limited with some constant preferences for British food.  There seem to be differences in social competence and fluency among the respondents: class gender and ethnicity seem to produce ‘a compartmentalised’ pattern (166).  Household meals are not very distinctive: there are widely shared tastes and social rituals.  There is a decline in table eating and an increase in the consumption of some aspect of ready made meals.  Household eating is dominated by a ‘culture of the necessary’ but cultural capital seems to have little influence here (167): nearly all the respondents usually have one course plus a drink plus something like yoghurt.  Puddings are rare and so  are sweets.  Healthy eating is well understood, but variables include response to children’s preferences.  There are ethnic differences here.  Few people are on special diets.  Few revealed an aesthetic pleasure in eating: for most, eating was a ‘mundane, routine, unreflective, habitual behaviour’ (168).  Diet was mostly a logistic issue then a social one.

In conclusion, privileged people choose the rarest sports, and participation is the issue rather than any symbolic significance.  Gender differences are clear, and ‘Body practices construct distinctions of gender, making us first and foremost into men and women, even if, thereafter, they permit secondary challenges to stereotypes by way of different versions of masculinity and femininity’ (169).  The more narrow participation of women is more through their choice rather than from being excluded.  Exercise and sport are enjoyed for relaxation rather than for spectacle or competition.  The educated middle classes and professionals see maintenance of their body as a duty.  Body modification is more widely distributed [with a reference to Crossley, who has a very broad definition of body modification, including cutting your nails and hair].  Eating out is distinctive, and clothing is distinctive in gender terms.  However, there is a general  informalism.  Those with high levels of cultural capital are capable of making fine distinctions here.  Bodies are important and do have a role in the accumulation of social and economic capital, they are ways in which ‘people introduce and represent themselves and their social strategies and values to others’ (169).  They do offer significant social differences ‘laden with symbolic significance’ (169) [another curious reversal of the main thrust of what they had actually been discussing!] Especially important is the ‘exercised and cultivated body…  Bodies display the insignia of unequal possession of cultural capital’ (169).

Chapter ten

For Bourdieu, the middle class were the agents of reproduction and its beneficiaries.  However demographic changes sense has seen middle class expansion and working class marginalisation.  However, in the UK, this is been accompanied by increased inequalities of income and middle class withdrawals from social life.  This is led the middle class with new internal divisions and different boundaries with the other classes.  There still seems to be a distinctive split between the cultured and the moneyed middle class, shown on axis four.  The ‘professional/executive’ class is united, more by ‘pluralistic versatility’ than by adherence to establish legitimate culture, shown particularly by their ‘ability to deal reflexively with cultural classifications’ (177).  This omnivore orientation is particularly apparent in focus groups and interviews.  It’s this competence in handling diverse cultural products which distinguishes them from the working class, whose competence is based on ‘knowledge, information and media’ (178) [what Fiske would call popular cultural capital?] The older middle classes still have views of status based on respectability, displayed in their liking some arts and culture.  The younger middle classes are less ‘stuffy’ and more flexible.  Therefore: ‘Despite only limited evidence for a self conscious middle class, a pervasive and powerful middle class cultural dominance exists’ (179) [another classic contradiction between their evidence and their conclusions].  Members of the middle class avoid making any claims to superiority though in order to avoid conflict, they accept their ‘advantage while refusing any clear class identity’ (179).  [So is this an ideology, a cover, and misrecognition in the Bourdieu sense?  Since the team refused to discuss misrecognition, is impossible to say].

The role of the middle class has been much debated.  Goldthorpe saw the service class as a bastion of social order, containing only a few exceptional radical individuals.  Gouldner, by contrast, saw the development of a dynamic new class, educated and critical, engaging in protest and forming new social movements, helping to disorganised capitalism: the upwardly mobile offered a particular cultural challenge.  Others saw splits between conservative and radical elements in the middle classes, with manages in particular being less integrated and feeling less secure.  For Bourdieu, there was a notable division between industrialists and intellectuals (in Distinction).  Culturally, intellectuals were interested in a pure aesthetic and the avant-garde, while industrialists like hedonism, ‘ease and facility’, conspicuous consumption, and luxury (179).  The two factions combined to reject the vulgar and the popular, especially when threatened.  The split reflected the different importance of economic and cultural capital.  The multiple correspondence analysis used by Bourdieu showed an axis one defined in terms of the total volume of all capitals, and axis two according to the composition of capitals.  Bennett’s axis two adds age.  Bennett also found no real split between industrialist and intellectuals, although there were connections with high incomes and educational qualifications.

The map of the service class in Bennett shows different patterns for the lower managerial groups compared to large employers and managers of large organisations, higher professionals and lower professionals.  Lower managerial groups seem closer to the intermediate class.  There seem to be no tensions between professionals and managers, who have similar backgrounds and educational qualifications, producing a new fraction—the ‘professional-executive class’ (180).  This group has been successful in avoiding the downgrading and organisational restructuring and is affected the lower managers, and has seen their sector expand.  The boundaries between the higher and lower groups therefore need to be redrawn—there is no secure a middle class identity for lower managers.  Boundaries with the service class also need to be redrawn as a consequence [see above—Bennett’s Service class is smaller than Goldthorpe’s].  Lower managers overlapping with the intermediate class is revealed by a table on page 180 which compares professional – executive, intermediate class, and working class groups in their cultural interests.  There are marked class differences between groups attending concerts all opera, but no differences in frequent attendance at nightclubs.  The professional – executive group emerge as a small minority who both go frequently and rarely to cultural events, compared to the large majority of working class groups.  There is a general hierarchy corresponding to levels of participation, except for watching television, where the hierarchy is reversed.  The intermediate class groups find themselves in between the two other groups, closer to the working class and avoiding museums and opera, but having reading habits like the professional – executives (181).  Attending nightclubs and pubs, and watching sport on television our activities that reveal no class differences. 

So, the professional – executive group is distinctive and relatively homogenous.  There are differences between voracious and moderate consumers, however, and some differences such as a group of moderates doing only some legitimate culture.  The differences seem to reflect not socio demographic variables as such, but specific occupations—members of this class are in similar locations in axis one and four on the horizontal dimension, but not the vertical.  The most voracious participants are ‘higher education teachers, media workers, artists and the old professions’ (182).  Moderate consumers appear to be IT and business professionals, although there are only small numbers in each case.  [The hinted connections between occupations and interests seem to confirm Parker’s extension pattern?  Fancied Parker making a comeback!]. There is some hint of the tension between intellectuals and industrialists, but this distinction is weaker than those produced by age or gender.  There is a good deal of interaction and complexity. The professional – executive class is homogenous despite their age differences. 

Members display an orientation towards omnivorousness rather than snobbishness or disdain for the ordinary and necessary.  Cultural omnivores were first identified in a 1992 study of high status people beginning to enjoy popular culture [still the most common form?].  People are omnivorous in terms of both volume and composition: they have more likes and a changed aesthetic, leading to a wider appreciation of all leisure activities and the arts.  There is no sign of snobbery [defined rather strangely as believing there is a close association between taste and elite status].  The omnivorous group might map to the new business – administrative class?  This group seems to display greater openness, and a redefinition of taste to help them cross the old divisions.  This group was particularly tested in terms of their volume and likes [likes seem to have been defined rather literally as date or about what people liked!]

The test was done using surveys.  A 27 item scale of engagement covering a range of activities from popular to minority interests was devised [so does minority mean elite?].  Then the results were crossed tabulated with ‘gender, occupational class, educational qualifications, ethnic identity and age’ (183).  A logistic regression [not MCA then?] identified independent variables: three classes, five types of educational qualification, self identified ethnicity: age, ‘measured by year plus and age – square had measure to register the potential decrease in participation among the elderly close single quote (183).  Results were also identified in terms of ‘population density, income, household type and region’ (183).  [It is not clear why these factors were also examined in this detail—a kind of spss driven empiricism?].

The regression exercise explained over a third of the variance [‘powerful’, they say, 183] education seem to be the most powerful factor, especially holding a degree.  Age was important, but not if people were elderly.  Living in London rather than the provinces was important, but the Welsh were the most omnivorous of all!  Single people, couples with dependent kids, and multi family households seem to be more omnivorous, and we should add a ‘monotonic effect of social class’ (185): producing a gradient of omnivorousness, with professional – executive at the top, intermediate class in the middle, and working class at the bottom.  Women were more likely than men to be omnivorous.  There was also a ‘very substantial effect of ethnic status’ (185), with the ‘not whites’ and the ‘white celtics’ at the bottom [so how did the Welsh identify themselves?].  The effects of education and class appear to be independent.  Overall, social position and resources were the determinants.  [Another very ambiguous section!  It could be an effective style—they seem to lead with the least important factors first?]

When it comes to explaining likes or taste, only 15% of the variance was explained.  Patterns seems similar to those for participation but generally weaker.  The most highly educated have the most ‘likings’ (185).  Graduates like music, but not books, film directors or television.  Examining class leads to the professional – executive with the greatest breadth of likes, but only for artists and music.  ‘Overall, class is not very important’ (185), at least for professional-executive and intermediate groups: it’s different for the Manual working class who seem to have fewer likes.  Region is important, with Londoners having more likes.  Non whites are more catholic for books and music, but more restricted in terms of named works.  Gender ‘matters a little’ and there is a ‘not very strong’ age effect (185).  So it is participation rather than range of tastes than appears important to the omnivore, although there is ‘a tendency for those with more educational qualifications and those belonging to higher social classes to be multiply engaged and to like a large number of items’ (185), and some general support for the omnivore thesis.  [I’m getting increasingly annoyed with this bombardment of empirical findings, left unexplained and looking pretty trivial, followed by statements to demonstrate social significance, but using vague terms such as ‘a tendency’, ‘not very strong’].

The professional-executive group is as involved in popular activities as the other classes.  However, ‘subtle divisions’ provide uncrossed barriers, raising some doubts about omnivorousness (186).  The qualitative data reveal this best.  For example interviews showed considerable pride in versatility, and a denial of snobbery [this seems to been prompted by a specific question on ‘old snobbery that was once associated with culture has all but disappeared’—a leading question inviting a rationalisation if ever I saw one, 186].  Postmodernism is mentioned by one particular interviewee.  Using the Internet, keeping contact with students, an academic understanding of the need for openness appeared, as ‘a requirement of his role in teaching’ (187).  However even this open academic had dislikes—Dixieland jazz, classic FM, urban music, soap operas and romance films.

Eight other omnivores appeared in the interview sample.  When assessing volume of tastes, they were in the top quartile on two out of the three scales of participation, knowledge and likes.  Three of these were employed in culture industries, so opportunities for engagement seem important.  Openness can also look like passivity and indifference compared to the important concerns of family, career and security (187).

So there seem to be different orientations and different types of omnivore—supporting a French study that found ‘humanist, populist, practical and indifferent’ types (188) [‘practical’ appear to refer to involvement in arts and crafts.  Other classifications, adopted by Bennett, are ‘professional, dissident, apprentice and unassuming’ (188).

Some of the dislikes of popular forms found among omnivores are ‘predictable’—fast food, rap, electronic music, and daytime TV.  Reality TV was the most commonly disliked [a dislike of emotional involvement?].  Omnivores also liked a higher proportion than normal of legitimate forms—public performances and displays of legitimacy, especially among the professional–executives.  In other words, omnivore is retained their ‘wider tastes in addition…  [to their]…  command of consecrated culture…  [which]... remains a token of distinction’ (189).  This command is still effective as a form of cultural capital.  Pluralism therefore ‘contains the elements of distinction rather than…  Pure tolerance’ (189).  The most usual omnivore was a cultural intermediary with professional interests in popular culture.  The team are not sure if they also gained some symbolic advantage from these interests as well: they are ‘probably socially profitable and it is certainly economically profitable for those for whom it is a professional commitment’ (189).

There is no condemnation of the tastes of other groups, however.  This may be ‘an insincere affectation, as suggested by Walden (2006)’ (189).  There seems to have been no diffusion of high cultural tastes downwards—these are still a property of the professional-executive groups.  So knowledge of elite culture is still socially advantageous?  The interviews seem to suggest so.  The professional – executive interviewees were homogenous in both practices and taste.  They attended life performances and visited cultural sites.  Other shared practices included travel, eating out, and by longing to cultural organisations.  The group invested in cultural activities, sometimes because of work, or to socialise with colleagues or clients.  But they also seemed genuinely voracious.  They were active across legitimate and mainstream activities, and maybe not quite so omnivorous.  They believe that legitimate culture is good and worth investing in.  It does seem to lead to social value—‘personal introductions…  Jobs after retirement, invitations on the social circuit…  Access to positions in voluntary associations’ (190).  Is this a sign of classic distinction as in Bourdieu?  No, because their culture is more shared, and features no repulsion or rejection of other forms.  The team only found one snob ‘that once associated popular taste with social inadequacy’ (190).  Generally the group was tolerant, although not particularly engaged with contemporary music art or  cinema (age was a factor here too).  The group did not form a typical elite even among its older members.

There seems to be middle class identification without snobbishness.  When interviewed, prompted and unprompted responses to class and identity revealed that the only one in three of the groups or themselves as belonging to a social class. For higher professionals, 60% saw themselves as middle class, and 25% saw themselves as working class [but in British life this is a joke, and sometimes a guilty denial]. Lower groups were particularly reluctant to see themselves as middle class.  So there was no ‘strong overworked middle class identity’ (191).  Is this a pretence, designed to efface class?—‘To some extent’ (191).  Members of this group did sometimes stereotype social classes.  Focus groups show a certain ambivalence about the relevance of class.  Definitions of class include lifestyle, and optional elements, but there is ‘than knowing reflection on what kinds of activity are proper for middle class and working class [groups]’ (192), producing a list of appropriate tastes.  There was some unease as well.  Afro caribbeans were particularly sensitive, because historically there was a strong connection between class and ethnicity [and hints about guilt following social mobility, 193].

Most members of the middle class were aware that you can classify people into classes, but had an image of themselves as ‘outside any specific class’.  They generally emphasise their own hybridity or mobility, but still ‘require and reproduce the classifications and ideoms of class’ (193).  [All this reminds me of Poulantzas or even Goldthorpe on the dreadful social confusion and guilt of the middle classes, produced by their contradictory social position, noted ever since Marx’s day.  Misrecognition seems precisely the right term to use, with desperate attempts to deny, evade or try to restore some sort of security, by denying the very existence of the class system].

Conclusions are very effective, 193 – 4.  For the chapter ends with a re-emphasis of credentials as the important qualifications in gaining a job, meaning cultural distinctions are less important [but see above—credentials themselves are heavily tied to cultural tastes?] There seems to be no overt snobbery, but some reservations about popular culture, some ‘hints and echoes of older attitudes’, some shame at liking popular culture.  There are therefore still ‘subtle boundaries’, despite ‘reflexive appropriation’ (194).  [This just seems to me to be the middle classes intellectualising again, and it reminds me about the discovery of ‘prophylactic relativism’ which they might have learned the university, a way of relativising tastes precisely in order not to have to justify their own in a publicly embarrassing way].

Notes on more social theorists here