Tag Archives: reading response Bordieu

Legitimate Culture

Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction brings together a lot of the ideas that we’ve been reading about so far. Three links stand out to me in particular: Adorno and Horkeimer’s argument that the culture industry severely limits the developments of our culture, that it shapes and limits our taste as well as our ability to experience, de Certeau’s emphasis on looking at the way in which cultural products are used by individuals, and Berger’s idea of the mystification of art.
Similar to Althusser, Bourdieu highlights the ways in which the institutions of education dictate ideologies, although Bourdieu focuses on the ideologies surrounding “high culture.” Bourdieu stressed the difference between educational capital– which is reinforced in schools – and cultural capital which can be brought up in educational institution but exists more largely outside it. Using a study that shows that higher-educated people can name a larger number of directors that less-educated individuals, and that the number of times an individual has gone to the cinema doesn’t account for the great difference in knowledge about directors, so he concluded, there is a correlation between these two types of capital.
I found the most interesting aspect of his discussion about culture, to be his discussion of high culture versus pop culture. He notes that formal refinement, found in “legitimate culture,” tends to obscure the art, and notes that the obscurity is often interpreted as, “a desire to keep the uninitiated at arms length”(33). He also argues that pop culture speaks to the working class, “satisfies the taste for and sense of revelry, the plain speaking, the hearty laughter which liberate by setting the social world head over heels” (34). He presents legitimate culture, such as modern art, as an effort to push away form what it means to be human, to reject human experiences, emotions, passions, which makes it difficult, particularly for the uneducated classes to enjoy. It almost seems, that the educated class is being duped or deceived more than the masses. We’re taught that we ought to connect spiritually with classical music, see the deeper meaning in obscure works, and delight in art such as a pile of coal. I may be reading all of this wrong, but it almost seems that Bourdieu is suggesting that the working class refuses to participate in something that they admit to not understanding, where as the educated people, are convinced that these obscure works mean something to them…perhaps education allows them to sincerely appreciate “legitimate culture” or perhaps it simply tells them that it ought to.