Social identity and aesthetic taste

Philosophical Psychology 8 (2):139 – 153 (1995)
Bourdieu's theory of aesthetic taste shares with social identity theory the concepts of reciprocal comparison and differentiation among social groups. This study used discourse analysis of interviews with further-education students on the topic of aesthetic taste to test the hypothesis, derived from these theories, that individuals always present their tastes in line with social differentiations. Since these students were moving from working-class to middle-class identities via education, it was expected that their discourse would be rich in the inconsistencies which need discourse analysis. Most respondents denied links between social class and aesthetic taste, but produced inconsistent “individualist” and “socialisation” repertoires. The individualist repertoire gave priority to individual choice in looking forward to a middle-class identity, while the socialisation repertoire favoured egalitarianism in looking backward to working-class origins and tastes. This inconsistency was resolved in one of two ways, “reconstrue society”, or “reconstrue self”. The “reconstrue society” resolution had three versions: progressivism (assertion of rapid disappearance of classes); reduction of class to resistible peer pressure; and subdivision of the working class into non-cultured and cultured segments, identifying the self with the latter. “Reconstrue self presented the self as overriding socialisation forces, but split identity between a social outer appearance and a private inner self.
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