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High culture and popular culture

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Crystal Tipps

on 19 September 2018

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Transcript of High culture and popular culture

Herbert J. Gans
Popular Culture and High Culture. An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

High culture and popular culture
Lecture 2

US - cultural struggle

heterogenous societies
allocation of power and resources

at stake:
"the nature of the good life"
which culture/whose culture should dominate/represent in society
19th century onwards - USA

free time activities
alcohol (taverns, music halls ...)
illicit sex
spectator sports
1960s - new "enemy":
"youth culture"
Kennedy &

- growing power, income, influence of intellectuals
art increasingly separated from class?


high culture
low culture
do not disappear

youth culture
-> (commercial) popular culture

1970s movements: feminism, civil rights
ideas threaten the position of pro-Establishment intellectuals
Gans predicts the return of mass culture critique

1980s - Raegan, Conservativism, "backlash"
mass culture
negative connotations
symbolic products used by the
"uncultured" majority
mass consumption
popular culture

more positive
problem: works of high culture can also be popular
taste cultures
consist of values, the cultural forms that express these values, and the media in which these are expressed
The Critique of Mass Culture
1. the negative character of
popular culture creation
2. the negative effects on
high culture
3. the negative effects on popular culture
4. the negative effects on
1. Popular culture's defects as a commercial enterprise
mass culture is an industry organized for profit
in order to be profitable, it must create a
homogenous and standardized product
that appeals to a mass audience
the industry transforms the creator into a worker on a mass production assembly line

high culture is implicitly the opposite: where personal artistic concerns dominate

Is profit not a concern within
the sphere of high culture?
Gans: each culture is
sensitive to its own diversity

hence the significance of ...
cultural studies
television studies
popular music studies
fan studies

creator orientation
user orientation
creator freedom
experimentation - expected but also has its difficulties - in both cultures
classicization (e.g. sixties' pop culture)
2. Popular culture's danger to high culture
popular culture borrows from high culture with the consequence of debasing it
by offering economic incentives, popular culture is able to lure away potential high culture creators
Gans: (1) reverse is also true
- high culture borrows from popular culture
high art
(2) not all high culture creators can produce popular culture
3. Popular culture's impact on its audience
destructive: provides spurious gratification; brutalizes through its emphasis on violence and sex
destructive: escapist
destructive: impairing people's ability to partake in high culture
is a better explanation of these problems
(isolation, depression, narcoticization, violence)

media - impact studies
theoretical turn: not Pavlovian conditioning
- but: social embeddedness, socialization, social network, selective perception
school shooting debates
4. Popular culture's harmfulness to society
1. popular culture lowers the taste level of society as a whole, thus impairing its quality as a civilization
2. mass media can "narcoticize" and "atomize" people and thus render them susceptible to techniques of mass persuasion (propaganda)
"distance from necessity"
taste cultures are cultures based on
Homework task from week 1
If Bourdieu conducted his study today in your country, what pieces/styles of music were likely to represent legitimate, middle-brow, and popular tastes?
Full transcript