Capital, Consumption, Communication, and Citizenship: The Social Positioning of Taste and Civic Culture in the United States

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The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Justice



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In this paper, we analyze the field of cultural consumption in the United States, drawing on the methods of correspondence analysis employed by Bourdieu (1979/1984). Using the 2000 DDB Lifestyle Study, we analyze a cross section of Americans (N=3,122) in terms of their occupational categories, media usage, consumption practices, social behaviors, and indicators of civic and political engagement. In doing so, we find many parallels to the determinants of taste, cultural discrimination, and choice within the field structure observed by Bourdieu in 1960s French society, though there are also some notable differences, consistent with Peterson and Kern's (1996) concept of omnivorousness. Specifically, we find that in terms of the form of cultural capital, the distribution of positions is largely defined by patterns of taste that discriminate between refinement, moderation, nurturance, and a communal orientation, on the one side, and coarseness, excess, aggressiveness, and an individual orientation, on the other. Historical and national differences partly account for this variation, but we suspect that a major role is played by the increasing formation of identities around media and consumption, leading to a more gendered and ideological positioning of taste cultures in the U.S context.


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