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La Distinction, a sociological book by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930 - 2002), takes as its basis Bourdieu's empirical research carried out in 1963 and concluded in 1967/68. The original publication took place in 1979 in France. Richard Nice translated the work into English, and it appeared in the United States in 1984 under the title "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste". In 1998 the International Sociological Association voted it one of the ten most important sociological books of the 20th century.

In his often densely-worded prose, Bourdieu discussed how those in power define aesthetic concepts such as "taste". Using research, he shows how social class tends to determine a person's likes and interests, and how distinctions based on social class get reinforced in daily life. He observes that even when the subordinate classes may seem to have their own particular idea of 'good taste', "...[i]t must never be forgotten that the working-class 'aesthetic' is a dominated 'aesthetic' which is constantly obliged to define itself in terms of the dominant aesthetics..." (page 41)

Example: Titanic (1997)[edit | edit source]

La Distinction has influenced academics working in different disciplines. For example, one can explain the negative reputation of the film Titanic (1997, Cameron) as a backlash from the film's own popularity and from its position within popular culture. In his British Film Institute monograph, David Lubin compares attitudes against the film directly to the main thesis of La Distinction. He suggests that derisory attitudes towards the film exhibit a desire to disassociate the critic from fanatics who reportedly attended multiple screenings, and from coverage in tabloids and teen magazines focusing on the two main stars.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Bourdieu,Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04546-0
  • Lubin, David M. (1999) Titanic. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-760-2
fr:La Distinction
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