From aesthetic principles to collective sentiments: The logics of everyday judgements of taste
Contemporary research into the sociology of taste has, following Bourdieu (1984), primarily emphasised the role of taste judgements as mechanisms of social and cultural power, as distinctive markers of social position, or more broadly as implicated in the reproduction of social inequality. We argue that although important, such a preoccupation with the social distribution of objectified tastes-for example in music, literature, and art-has been at the expense of investigating the everyday perceptual schemes and resources used by actors to accomplish a judgement of taste. Our argument is traced using a range of classical and contemporary literature which deals with the personal/collective tension in taste, aesthetics and fashion. We use data from a recent national survey to investigate how a sample of ordinary actors understand the categories of 'good' and 'bad' taste. The analysis shows a strong collective strand in everyday definitions of taste, often linked to moral codes of interpersonal conduct. Also, taste is largely defined by people as a strategy for managing relations with others, and as a mode of self-discipline which relies on the mastery of a number of general principles that are resources for people to position their own tastes within an imagined social sphere. The paper proposes a schematic model which accounts for the range of discriminatory resources used to make judgements of taste.