New article by L. Hanquinet, H. Roose, and M. Savage in Sociology
Bourdieu’s Distinction (1984) has been highly influential in sociological debates regarding cultural inequality, but it has rarely been considered a theory of aesthetics. In this article we explore empirically how the modernist framing of Bourdieu’s aesthetics needs to be rethought in the context of contemporary aesthetic change. Drawing on a survey of museum visitors in Ghent, Belgium (n = 1195), we use Multiple Correspondence Analysis to analyse what aesthetic dimensions are important when people contemplate works of art. We find that the familiar Bourdieusian opposition between popular (based on beauty and harmony) and highbrow aesthetics is still important. However, the content of highbrow aesthetics has changed, now privileging ‘postmodernist’ dimensions over modernist ones. We can also detect another dimension that favours a socially reflexive art compared to a detachment of art from social preoccupations, which is not recognized in Bourdieu’s account.