Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” as Want to Read:
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,409 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews

No judgement of taste is innocent. In a word, we are all snobs. Pierre Bourdieu brilliantly illuminates this situation of the middle class in the modern world. France's leading sociologist focusses here on the French bourgeoisie, its tastes and preferences. Distinction is at once a vast ethnography of contemporary France and a dissection of the bourgeois mind.

In the cou

Paperback, 613 pages
Published October 15th 1987 by Harvard University Press (first published 1979)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Freakonomics by Steven D. LevittOutliers by Malcolm GladwellThe Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellNickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
Sociology Books
427 books — 331 voters
The Quincunx by Charles PalliserThe Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn PeakeThe Stolen Child by Keith DonohueEnglish Passengers by Matthew KnealeScaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Best Unappreciated Books
1,548 books — 2,416 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Bourdieu is getting high praise here on Goodreads and, no offense, but did you read the whole thing?

Now, don't get me wrong, if I were to teach a class on aesthetics, the first chapter, an absolute masterpiece, would be required reading. But for crying out loud, read the whole thing and read it critically. There's no point in reading philosophy or sociology if you don't read it critically.

Part I, "The Aristocracy of Culture" is a masterpiece, if you ignore Bourdieu's crappy methodology. Or near
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to louisa by: RWP
Shelves: theory
God, how I hate this bastard. And, god, how smart he is. I have quibbles with his methodology and instrument and the wholesale applicability of his findings outside L'Hexagone, but fuck. I might prefer Thorsten's Midwestern flair and more straightforward style, but Bourdieu has a lot of potent things to say about the myth of the natural eye and the way taste encodes and propagates social, cultural, and educational capital. You will never look at your preferences, favorites, and consumption the s ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is Bourdieu’s most famous book. And it is long, with much of part 3 probably of only passing interest even to people a bit obsessed with Bourdieu. The problem is that the data is all quite old now and so unless you are particularly interested in how various social fractions of the French class structure reacted to life in the 1960-70s … you get my point.

I’ve been trying to work out how to write this review – you see, the problem is that there’s a bit of a back story to this book and I don’t
تا اونجا که لازم داشتم، حدود یکسومش، رو خوندم.
خدا هیچکس رو اسیر این مترجمها و ترجمههای چپندرقیچیشون نکنه! بلند بگید آمین!
Michael Sutherland
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People that like drowning in prose.
Bourdieu’s distinction offers a lot. By a lot, I mean 600 pages of analyses, graphs, and studies, in some of the densest prose imaginable. Bourdieu seems to be able to expand a simple sentence’s worth of information into entire paragraphs that flow like dense molasses. Distinction does have a lot to offer, though. I am reading it as a part of a look into hipster subcultures in the United States—obviously far removed from the 1980s French society that Bourdieu analyzed; most of the figures, table ...more
Aug 26, 2012 marked it as read-parts-of
Only read the beginning and conclusion. Lots of interesting ideas here, but my internal statistician is wondering how he could draw such wide-reaching conclusions from a single set of surveys.
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
This not easy in the slightest. As one reader previously wrote: "sometimes I wish Bourdieu knew what a simple sentence was." Or something like that. The point is, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste is ridiculously dense and stuffed the very brim with analyzation and graphs and information, and reading it can be hell, but also really interesting. Just a few pages is enough to give the reader perspective and allow them to think a little differently about things. The ...more
Damn, it's better than you'd think to have someone tell you how bullshit the way you and everyone you know does life and how you need to watch out for internal fascism!
Bourdieu looks at cultural productions--- art, music, books ---and asks which social groups regard particular authors or painters or composers as "theirs": in other words, defining points for membership in a certain class. Aesthetic sensibility, he argues, is the means by which educational and cultural capital are converted into class markers. An aristocratic bloodline has been replaced by the 'aesthetic sensibility' as a way to define entitlement to deference in society. "Distinction" thus has ...more
Tony Gualtieri
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's dated, overlong, and the prose is convoluted; however, the insights into the social construction of taste are thought provoking. Why do we like what we like? How much of our preferences are due to class envy, education, or economic circumstances?

The final chapter, on Kant's Critique of Judgment, shows how even so-called pure aesthetics is "grounded in an empirical social relation," how pleasure itself becomes part of the way "dominant groups...ride roughshod over difference, flouts distin
Oct 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Pierre Bourdieu in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste offers an ethnography of 1960s French taste. Largely, based on interviews, the research illustrates how taste is inherently judgemental and a product of, to use, Bourdieuan terms, the habitus and individual agency acting within the ‘cultural’ field. Intervieews answered questions based on preferences in taste, opinions, and something close to Bourdieu’s heart- institutional pedadgogies and knowledge, regarding movies, a ...more
Loubna Mckouar
When I first read this it gave me a trauma from how smart a man can be and how stupid I could get struggling with every sentence, graph, example trying to understand it within an everyday context. But hey, it's not any "everyday life" it's a Middle Eastern one. I used this guy to theorise the power of a Saudi media Mogul, his empire, his prince field, and the "others" around the same empire. Distinction is about the individual and his strategies in every single field of life. In defining the ter ...more
Marisol García
No es un libro fácil. Este tratado francés de sociología se presenta como tal, con cuadros y encuestas, y una prosa de frases largas y palabras inventadas (como la recurrente enclasante y sus derivados). Pero el tema que aborda es tan familiar que incluso su foco francés y ochentero (en casos y en ejemplos) resulta cercano. No podemos escapar a los criterios del gusto, ya sea observándolos en nosotros mismo o por cómo determinan a las personas a nuestro alrededor. El gusto levanta negocios y rel ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Anne by: Keith Roe
This book is a classic for sociologists, but not many have been able to read the entirety of it.

Bourdieu's ideas on the concept of 'taste', and the driving force behind it (spoiler: the economic field and the struggle of the classes within), were (and still are) quite revolutionary, despite the clear influences he refers to (Marxism, Robert Merton, etc). Bourdieu sprinkles many examples throughout the book to help you grasp his deeply theoretical book.

Despite these many examples, you might have
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is rather shoddy in many respects. The sociological methodology is poor in several aspects and presented even more poorly - unintelligibly, at times. In general it seems that Bourdieu actually doesn't know what he's talking about. He doesn't seem to be able to pin down any classifications and when he elaborates he relies on his own shifting impressions rather than the (paucity of) data that he presents. He starts by identifying the aristocratic social order as aesthetes but seems to dr ...more
Nicole Spiegel
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste is a both dense and interesting book. Due to how long the book is it covers a lot of good points, as well as go into great detail. This could be seen as both positive and negative. It was nice because while reading this you won't feel cheated from any information but in my opinion, it was a little much. Usually out of a whole paragraph, I feel that everything could be summed up in just a few sentences.
Surprisingly it wasn't as hard to rea
Vern Glaser
Mar 07, 2010 rated it liked it
This is my second exposure to Bourdieu...the writing is a little rough, but the ideas are really quite provocative and interesting...his general way of looking at the world is to suggest that we have dispositions that come from our class upbringing (he calls this the "habitus") and that these dispositions define our tastes. This is interwoven into his two-by-two matrix that talks about the difference between cultural capital and economic capital.

So in the book he is describing the results of a m
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full review is available at

As this is one of Bourdieu's famous book and as it talks about "taste", I have been struggling for writing a review on this one. The problem is not because Bourdieusian readings are complicated, well, at least for this book- it is "digestible"  tho. The matter is, concerning Bourdieusian concepts of taste, it is inseparable with the seminal work of aesthetic taste in Kantian reading.

What is then aesthetic taste for Kant? For Kan
Thai Divone
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: critical-theory
This book is the reason that I started learning sociology. I read a small part of it, in a class during a school visit to the university, and I fell in love. Five years later and I'm in my last year of my bachelorate studies in sociology, hoping to get into a position in the sociology department of some university. In other words, this book is my childhood, I grew up on it and with it. Although, for this reading, it was rather long, it did live up to the expectations. I can't recommend this book ...more
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's impossible to read this book and not see the social world differently. You'll find yourself thinking about the world around you in terms of the book's analytical imagination. Its effect is deep and lasting, and sometimes revolting. The reading has the consistency of peanut butter-sticky and dense. The abstractions come fast and the clunky prose is unrelenting. But the effort is rewarded many times over in deep disclosures of the social world around.
Allison Keilman
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
A little hard to get into at first, but it speeds up as you delve into Bourdieu's research. You will likely question the relevancy of his theories in modern society, and at times feel uncomfortable with what he is saying. He really does come off as a smug elitist, but - for better or worse - some of his points still hold true today.
Luke Echo
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
yeah - I can see why this is quite influential.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
My reasons for liking this book are probably unusual. I am interested in an American Christian rehabilitation of the arts, which I think must begin with a complete divestment of ourselves from Kant's third critique. Kant's specter haunts every corner of all of our theories of art and he desperately needs exorcising. Insofar as Bourdieu does this, I think this book is hugely important and another in a long list of Marxist critical theory that desperately needs a thorough treatment in Christian cu ...more
Nov 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 300s, not-portable
"What is at stake is indeed 'personality', i.e., the quality of the person, which is affirmed in the capacity to appropriate an object of quality. The objects endowed with the greatest distinctive power are those which most clearly attest the quality of the appropriation, and therefore the quality of their owner, because their possession requires time and capacities which, requiring a long investment of time, like pictorial or musical culture, cannot be acquired in haste or by proxy, and which t ...more
Brendan Holly
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Self-awareness never felt so invigorating and disparaging. This work is incredibly dodgy statistically, as explained by other reviewers, yet it is a compelling representation of the way that academics see the world and, most likely, justify their place within it.
Joy C.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very worthwhile article!!
(I think from now on I might include some of the articles I read because I am doing so much of it, and also as a record of the ideas and thoughts I am currently processing at university.
Valeria Mancera
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stumbled upon Pierre Bourdieu while reading for the thesis and have to say he makes sense for some extent.
Sarah Guldenbrein
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Truly, deeply awful writing. However, really useful, expansive theory that is going to be relevant to my own research.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
  • The Sociological Imagination
  • The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration
  • Mind, Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist
  • Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology
  • The Civilizing Process
  • Rules of Sociological Method
  • The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
  • The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society
  • Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977
  • Learning to Labor
  • The Practice of Everyday Life
  • Art Worlds
  • The Interpretation of Cultures
  • Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge
  • Selections from the Prison Notebooks
  • Critique of Everyday Life
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class
Bourdieu pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural, social, and symbolic capital, and the concepts of habitus, field or location, and symbolic violence to reveal the dynamics of power relations in social life. His work emphasized the role of practice and embodiment or forms in social dynamics and worldview construction, often in opposition to universalized Western philo ...more
“Those who suppose they are producing a materialist theory of knowledge when they make knowledge a passive recording and abandon the “active aspect” of knowledge to idealism, as Marx complains in the theses on Feuerbach, forget that all knowledge, and in particular all knowledge of the social world, is an act of construction implementing schemes of thought and expression, and that between conditions of existence and practices or representations there intervenes the structuring activity of the agents, who, far from reacting mechanically to mechanical stimulations, respond to the invitations or threats of a world whose meaning they have helped to produce.” 6 likes
“Taste is first and foremost distaste, disgust and visceral intolerance of the taste of others.” 5 likes
More quotes…