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Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
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Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,754 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Los sujetos sociales se diferencian por las distinciones que realizan -entre lo sabroso y lo insípido, lo bello y lo feo, lo distinguido y lo vulgar- en las que se expresa o se traiciona su posición. El análisis de las relaciones entre los sistemas de enclasamiento (el gusto) y las condiciones de existencia (la clase social) conduce así a una crítica social del criterio se ...more
Paperback, 613 pages
Published October 15th 1987 by Harvard University Press (first published 1979)
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Valerie Thack First I wanted to say no, but according to Howard Becker (who is american), english speaking people have a habit for a more direct and personnal style…moreFirst I wanted to say no, but according to Howard Becker (who is american), english speaking people have a habit for a more direct and personnal style, so maybe it is. (less)
Valerie Thack Hi. If I may suggest an answer : no, he's famous for his unique style and long sentences. It is also academic writing, and french graduates also find …moreHi. If I may suggest an answer : no, he's famous for his unique style and long sentences. It is also academic writing, and french graduates also find it challenging. Are you reading it from the first page and on ? I find it easier to go inside the book and pick any page, chart or interview.
Also, the book describes French society in the 1960-70', some items may not translate.(less)

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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
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
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
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
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!
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Tastes (i.e., manifested preferences) are the practical affirmation of an inevitable difference. It is no accident that, when they have to be justified, they are asserted purely negatively, by the refusal of other tastes."

This book had a sickening impact upon me, an insidious trembling, and it really shouldn't have.

It's dense and technical, and as much as one is tempted to reflect upon Bourdieu's ideas and wonder how they manifest in one's immediate society, Distinction is not the most effectiv
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
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
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
M. Nasiri
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, blinkist
A theory of relationship between taste and social class.
Why do we like the things we like?

We associate different tastes with different social classes.
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, ...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
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, criticism
I'm casting this one away into my 'abandoned' shelf. I admire Bourdieu, and would like to know more of his career and his theories, but this specific title is not for me. It's just about as dense a work as I've ever encountered; unrelieved density without any reward for persevering along with it. Even Hans-Georg Gadamer is more pleasant reading. From what I can make out, Bourdieu surveyed a large cross-section of French citizens about their 'tastes in the arts'. Individuals from all every class ...more
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.
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hoping to try and write my thoughts up in a longer form, but I will say this for now: There is a lot to criticize about this book. Bourdieu's writing is oftentimes needlessly, and painfully, complex. His "use" of statistics is embarrassing. His failure to consider issues like genetic explanation and to what extent sociological explanation discounts "intrinsic" explanations are a real blight on a book that aims for such comprehensiveness.
Yet, this is a masterful work. When he's on a roll his lon
Jennifer Guerra
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This huge work is indeed a true masterpiece of sociology but I think is way too difficult in terms of style and language. Each sentence requires a second reading if you want to fully capture its meaning, and the more you read, the deeper and more challenging it gets. It is a quality, for sure, but also spoils the pleasure of reading.
Although, the first chapter, which is the most theoretical, is also the most beautiful.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: un-ebook
3.5 stars
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
Irene Wang
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In the course of everyday life people constantly choose between what they find aesthetically pleasing and what they consider tacky, merely trendy, or ugly. Bourdieu bases his study on surveys that took into account the multitude of social factors that play a part in a Frenchperson's choice of clothing, furniture, leisure activities, dinner menus for guests, and many other matters of taste. What emerges from his analysis is that social snobbery is everywhere in the bourgeois world. The different ...more
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
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
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julia Schulz
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Good God. I'll have to confess that I couldn't really understand this properly; jump the gun, and give it three stars! (This star rating is based purely on the seemingly popularity of this work.) It was unsurprisingly very French, and I had trouble understanding the cultural norms of a country so unfamiliar to myself. I did, however, enjoy the social profiling, but (as I hang my head in shame) I could not make head nor tail of most of the text or graphs. (I remember having similar trouble in Soc ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
People’s tastes are rooted in the material conditions of their lives. According to the author, they emerge from reflect, and demarcate people’s class positions in society. These positions are shaped by their volume of capital, composition of capitals, and social trajectory, which would form the three dimensions of the social space through which society’s class structure can be understood.

Normally, we could measure someone’s position in this space by observing their economic and cultural capital
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
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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

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Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
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“Taste is first and foremost distaste, disgust and visceral intolerance of the taste of others.” 15 likes
“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.” 11 likes
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