Cultural Omnivorism debate | Sociology
Your taste of music or the programs you watch on television may tell more about you than you think. One of the sociological debates that intrigues me is the one about ‘cultural omnivorism’. This long debate is quite difficult and hard to explain in short, but let me give it a try. The debate should start with the theory of famous sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. ‘Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier’ is one of his wel-known phrases. It hits the core of his thoughts on the differences in our society according to social classes and people’s lifestyle and taste preferences, or to say in short their ‘cultural consumption’. According to Bourdieu, people distinguish oneselves by their cultural taste preferences, for example which music genres they listen to. Our tastes are largely based on the amount of the person’s ‘cultural capital’, referring to the ‘knowledge’ about certain cultural products we learned from family and during education. So to say, the bigger your cultural capital, the better you’re able to understand complex cultural goods (for example ‘highbrow’ classical music). Bourdieu’s theory is extremely popular and his theory has provoked several debates. One subject of debate is whether the differences in taste preferences according to socioeconomic positions, like described by Bourdieu, are nowadays still delineated. People from high class are not only participating in high culture activities anymore and their taste seems to be more diverse.
The question is whether there is still a relation between social and cultural inequaty or are we becoming more ‘cultural omnivore’? Cultural omnivorism means that people from the higher class may both consume high class cultural products (go to an opera) as cultural products considered ‘lower’ (listen to salsa music). And people from lower class may consume high class cultural products.
I think it’s likely that people from the upper class have developed a broader cultural taste or interests (and have become more cultural omnivore), because of the knowledge they have about how they want to consume culture. They can for example listen to salsa music, however may prefer a typical selection of artists. In this way, there seems to arise hierarchy within a genre. If we look on the other side of this debate about cultural omnivorism it would be less likely that people from the lower class will become cultural omnivore, as they may not have the knowledge to consume higher culture. The amount of cultural capital seems to play an important part in the debate about omnivorism. What do you think? Are you recognizing this phenomenon of cultural omnivorism?