Thursday, 10 April 2008

Media Aristocracy

One of the fascinating things about Bourdieu's Distinction (or here) is the variety of approaches to the study of the media it provides us with and the range of connexions it allows us to form. Bourdieu's concept of an aristocracy of culture marked by its distance from necessity is what concerns us in this post.
How one consumes and receives culture is one of the most important marks of distinction and therefore a key means for the accumulation of cultural capital. Anything which is not necessary (and we are ignoring the psychiatric self-actuation as a need - necessity here means shelter, heat, clean water, and sufficient nutrition) is distinguishing as it displays use of spare time and resources. So there is a very raw and powerful difference between being able to consume media culture and not having the time or resources to waste on such consumption.
The tale is not told with this bare fact however. Every segment of society has its own authorised culture and the unnecessary participation in that authorised culture is a means of creating status within that part of society. Although the genres are similar and the issues addressed and narrative forms used appear the same there is a very radical difference in social status between reading Skins & Teen Vogue one the one hand and Hollyoaks and More on the other (and it is a step higher to transfer to Sex and the City and Vogue proper). The former is the mark of the aristocracy of (female) teen media culture and the latter is far more plebeian. This is by no means the full extent of this scale and it is not the only scale - there are a huge range of different social fields of status competition - but it is a good example of the the media texts and forms we can connect with Bourdieu's ideas.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are two articles in the latest 'Poetics' you might be interested in:

Blasius, J. & Friedrichs, J. (2008) 'Lifestyles in distressed neighbourhoods: a test of Bourdieu's "taste of necessity" hypothesis'


Prieur, A. et al (2008) 'Cultural Capital today: A case study from Denmark'

The link is:


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