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Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Polity Short Introductions) Paperback – 1 Jul 1987


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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (1 July 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674212770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674212770
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 773,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'In this rich and probing guide to the strategies of pretension in contemporary France, Bourdieu describes how class segments separate from each other by their contrasting attitudes towards art and beauty.' - The Observer

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) was one of France’s leading sociologists. Champion of the anti-globalization movement, his work spanned a broad range of subjects, from ethnography to art, and education to television.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 98 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Jan 2003
Format: Paperback
'Distinction' is the product of several studies and is an attempt to trace the links between a person's position in social space and their judgement of 'taste', what is 'tasteful' and 'desirable' and so on; but, in addition to this, it is an examination of how different groups in society try to define their particular styles and aesthetics and promote them as 'legitimate'. Bourdieu draws on data pertaining to many areas of life: eating and drinking, choices in clothing, music, holidays, and all sorts of other lifestyle practices - even down to the way people interact and comport themselves (he speaks, for example, of 'the slow, measured, confident delivery of the old bourgeoisie'). He shows how different groups engage in different practices - so that, for example, one class fraction might attend a football match while another would prefer to visit an art gallery, and explains why this is so. Another part of the book deals with the development of the refined sense of aesthetics possessed by those who claim to be 'cultured'.
In a nutshell, the book describes how a person's taste is a product not just of their own innate desires, but is actually something that comes from that person's position in the social field. A central concept employed by Bordieu is that of 'habitus': this is essentially a distillation of our own objective social position, which fundamentally determines the choices we make as we go about the business of living our lives. Another central concept is that of capital. Bourideu argues that different types of groups are generally in possession of different types of capital; some groups possess economic capital (i.e.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the big beasts, obtuse, brimming and spilling with meaning. Bourdieu changed perception, when he ranged his gaze onto the habitus of middle class manners, building on Elias Cannetti to look at the creation of style. fashion and taste. Being middle class is the antithesis of being working class, as it requires a "refined" set of manners. The habitus rests upon the tension within this polarity. Within the modern, era as workers no longer work, the middle classes define themselves by putting in double shifts; doing white collar work tapping computer keys, having meetings, doing tenders and change management. Life and business is reduced to the "game."

The non workers drink strong lager, the middle classes drink strong wine but all get drunk on the meaninglessness of the system they have created. The non workers listen to rap the middle classes listen to something unstructured. Holidays in Spain, holidays in Thailand, Peckham and Barking becomes Clapham and Notting Hill. Areas of geography and taste intertwine to demarcate "us and "them."

The problems with MC Culture, as Bourdieu points out is its inherent sterility. "Culture" is composed of a collection of sterile facades masquerading as roles that need to be imbibed to create the habitus. Ultimately all is ersatz and fake. The middle class habitus also co-exists in a tension with the upper class culture. Whilst the middle classes have morality, the upper classes have none. They are the despoilers and live a life like the poor, except they have "class" and money, but are equally morally dysfunctional, according to the middle class habitus. The middle classes are entrapped in a strange dynamic of fawning and anatogonism when compared to the upper classes.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 July 2000
Format: Paperback
A great, disturbing book, a destroyer of social illusions detached from a programme (though not from political sympathies). It's an attempt by a professor to prove to his fellow professors that he still acknowledges extra-academic reality and Big Issues. Yet it's so brilliant that I will even forgive him his professorial sentences.
The thesis in brief: Aesthetic judgment as such is intended to construct a mystified form of social superiority. High culture defines itself by devising endless baroque unsatisfying "aesthetic" pleasures. Angry professors play the game harder than anyone, and resent the fact that it doesn't make them rich. The workers know they can't really play at all, but must give it a go, and look silly. Even the most angry leftists fail to recognise the cultural machine of their alienation, and find themselves helpless in its grip. The bureaucratic and professional Top Cats (this is France, after all...), the products of the grandes e'coles, know (without realising) that it's all a game for their benefit, and escape the trap by not being serious about what they make everyone else worry over - thereby establishing their "natural" right to inherit everything and rule the world.
The book is nostalgic for "pure" class politics (precisely as a guarantee of Bourdieu's purity of heart, to be proven to a purely academic audience). Thus, we have direct, deeply reverent, appeals to Marx (and hardly anyone else), and gush about the "realism" of the working class, the Worker as Noble Savage, deprived and oppressed and confused but mysteriously In Touch with Really Important Stuff. Mysticism is predictably derided.
The annoying thing is that Bourdieu is very, very penetrating and intelligent.
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