‘Consumers of cultural goods, and their
taste for them, are produced, and at the same time to describe the different
ways of appropriating such of these objects’ (Bourdieu, 1984). During our lifetime, our unique lifestyles
and consumption practises are moulded around the perception of ‘class’, consequently
indicating that the most prosperous class is more likely to control ‘cultural
power’. Some taste and practices are apparently better than others which
depends on class power. But the question we should be asking is which ‘class’
controls this type of influence?  During
this essay, I will evaluate the struggles maintaining cultural power between
different classes, through taste and practises. Furthermore, to support my
claims, I will use several critique responses and academic resources to help
elaborate this question.  Throughout this
essay, I will analyse the distinction between two different classes, working
and middle and identify how certain taste and practises have impacted on these
classes, plus their reason for this choice. 
By clearing up their ideas, it’s important to familiarise Bourdieu as my
main scholar by using his perspective on taste. From this, I will be able to understand
and explain how class uses cultural power to achieve their goals by using
appropriate examples.


French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, became the most powerful thinkers in
the 21st century. One of his concerned writing was based on the
‘Dynamics of Power in Society’. Later, he established a theory known was ‘Cultural
Deprivation Theory’. This philosophy indicated that ‘the higher-class cultures
are better, when compared to working class cultures’ (Bryant, 2015). Hence, upper class and middle class
began blaming working class ‘for the failure of children in education’ (Bryant, 2015). However, this is
where Bourdieu contradicts his own theory as later, he believed that people
should not see higher class as the ‘superior class’ and assume that this rank
is better than working class. Bourdieu uses school as a prime example to
explain how he believes that the failure of school in working class is based on
the fault in the education system, not the ‘working class culture’ (Bourdieu,
 Following this, Bourdieu believed that
‘consumers of cultural goods, and their taste for them… describe the different
ways to appropriating such of these object’ (Bourdieu, 1984). From this quote, it elaborates how our
society struggles for acceptance and rightfulness, which reinforcing that the
class that controls the cultural power, is considered as the most prosperous
class. But how does this explicate cultural power? From the article ‘Social
Class and Symbolic Violence’ by Elliot Weininger, he states that Bourdieu
argues that ‘legitimizing theatricalization…always accompanies the exercise of
power’ (Weininger , 2002), therefore, if a
successful class starts imprinting taste and practices as legitimate or
illegitimate, it starts emphasising which taste are right, wrong and better for
our society. Consequently, this pushes other taste and practices out the way
due to the dominance of cultural power. According to Bourdieu, ‘the very
lifestyle of the holders of power contributes to the power that makes it
possible, because its true conditions of possibility remain unrecognised’ (Weininger ,
On the other hand, cultural power has dominated our lifestyle. Bourdieu
evaluates the conception of consumption practises and states that these
practises are how a class culture is replicated. Nevertheless, our consumption
practises look at individual’s lifestyle, identifying how we did certain things
due to our class. Therefore, implying that our lifestyles and choices are fashioned
around the type of class we have lived in society which we have grown into and
become who we are today.

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Moreover, to explain the perception of consumption practises, the brand
Nike which is very popular today, demonstrates class struggle through the idea
of legitimisation. Taste is between a class struggle arguing which taste is
better. Bourdieu uses ‘Structural Constructivism’ to define how we are
cataleptic to what appears right therefore we just accept them and believe that
this is how things should be. For example, using your hands to eat instead of
cutlery at a restaurant.  No one had
introduced a rule or law stating it is wrong? so how come people frown upon
this action? Another example could be drinking alcohol from the bottle instead
of using a glass.  Taste judgement is
what we do every day, completing against the other class. However, someone from
working class would see this action as normal and would not be bothered about
this. On the other hand, someone from upper class or middle class would see
this action as disgusting and rude. We start following these cultural
behaviours as it becomes part of our nature. This supports that upper-class
taste has become the legitimate one, hence their taste is much better than
working class.


Making a taste ‘right’ is not a natural thing, as it becomes ‘symbolic
violence’ which means people begin feeling embarrassed and accepting that this
taste is not right, as a result, changing their values and cultural beliefs to
try and fit in with the class that holds cultural power and receiving that
social approval. This emphasis the struggles of cultural power and highlights
how this impacts on our generations today. For example, if the working class go
for the wrong choice or taste, this will affect many generations including
children and grandchildren therefore, marking them as ‘losers’. From this,
upper class again will control cultural power, but this generates a robust
division between the two classes, highlighting the struggles for society. In
the journal article review in 2004, ‘A social critique of the judgment of
taste’ by Andy Blunden, he claims that Bourdieu compares taste to a game as he strongly
emphasises that to understand taste, you need to recognise the rules to the
game, ‘cultural appreciation is reduced…to a status game’ (Blunden, 2004) In the reference to
Andy Blunden article, he quoted that Bourdieu perceives the ‘social world
through the lens of fields and habitus’ (Blunden, 2004).  ‘Habitus’ allows us to ‘shape the way we
understand and act’ (Richardson, 1979) in our everyday
lifestyle, plus ‘habitus’ is essential to understand how different
characteristic of each class generates our actions, thoughts and our choices we
make. Bourdieu uses this concept of habitus define the ‘socially constituted
system of dispositions’ (Weininger , 2002). As Bourdieu quotes,
‘taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier’ (Blunden, 2004). An important
concept of habitus is that taste is social and not individual, for instance, we
as humans are ruled from the class we come from therefore, taste is embedded to
us from a very young age for example, the food we like, the type of style we
like, what we dislike etc.  Habitus
allows us to learn about what class we are associated with, which helps us to
categorise certain things such as, what my style is. This is known as
‘transobulous’. An example of this would be designer clothing. People from
upper class can afford expensive branding clothing, therefore if we are
associated with this from an early age, we begin believing that this is our
style. However, a person from working class would think their style is
something different such as casual wear from ‘normal’ clothing shops. However,
this again generates cultural struggle as working class will try hard to work
so they are able to afford these brands and try and fit with the society and be
part of something they are excluded from.


Bourdieu uses four forms of capitals which are (Economic, Cultural,
Social and Symbolic). These forms help people to establish where they fit in
the society which is demonstrated through their lifestyle choices. The first
one is Economic Capital as this focuses on wealth and how much money you own.
This is aimed for families who send their children to private schools etc.  Cultural Capital is for the both rich and
poor. For example, you may be low on economic but rich in CC (cultural
capital). Social capital looks at doing the right thing, allowing people to
move up in the system. Lastly, Symbolic capital focuses on approval and
respect, which brings other capitals together. Miller 1994, stated that taste
is drawn by Bourdieu… by different experience of class in modern society.  Habitus provides humans with class belonging,
yet from this, we can allocate different taste and practises to different
class. This legitimises the idea of taste, therefore establishing cultural


Now, as Bourdieu became aware that things are beginning to change, for
example, middle class is becoming more diverse. He introduced two concepts
known as ‘Bourgeoisie’ and ‘Petite Bourgeoisie’. The term ‘Bourgeoisie’ focuses
on taste that are allied with the rich in two forms, economic and cultural
capital. These individuals taste is based on formal as there is distance from
popular taste (working class). For instance, a glass of fine wine shows
morality. The rich would enjoy the taste of the wine rather than just drinking
it for affect. Some middle/working class would argue that all wine has similar
taste. Another prime example would be food, as for the bourgeoisie class, they
have constant worry of what they going to eat as for the upper class and middle
class, they take their time to enjoy their food without having to worry about
anything. The new middle-class morality is based on fun and pleasure for
instance, they are more likely to eat diverse culture foods and have a
pleasurable experience. This forms a separation amongst the middle and lower
class. Conversely, habitus influences your lifestyle based on what you eat and
how to eat or what you drink etc. It creates a legitimate taste and practises
as it concentrates on pleasure but through a formal way which creates division
between the classes therefore, giving upper/middle class cultural power.  Working class have the inclination to eat at
lost cost food places for example, fast food restaurants. The alterations in taste
and practises can be defined only as a class taste. This demonstrates the
struggle of power between the different classes as everybody perceives things
in a different way. As a result, it shows that cultural power is in the hands
of bourgeoise which allocates working class taste as illegitimate due to their
lifestyle and the choices they make.


There has been some critique to Bourdieu’s claims as in the article
Bourdieu on Status, class and culture 2004, Axel Honneth’s criticises Bourdieu
as he does not answer the questions that would help us for example, ‘We need a
theory of movement for fields. But is ‘field’ a concept amenable to a theory of
change? Do individuals change their habitus or the field through their
struggle? Or do fields change objectively in response to the disclosure of
contradictions or as a result of interaction with other fields?’ (Blunden, 2004). This demonstrates
that people disagree with Bourdieu concept of taste and practises as it
struggles with the idea of cultural power and dictates society.

To conclude, I have explained the different types of taste within
society and class and how meaningful some taste are which working class cannot
afford, such as food and wine. I have learnt that taste and practises can
define your social statues which challenges cultural power. Overall it may seem
that cultural power is given to bourgeoise but yet working class still have
their own culture and as things are changing, certain choices they make are
becoming legitimate. The downfall to cultural power is that the rich frown upon
the society and individuals which makes working class feel embarrassed. I have
evaluated Bourdieu as my main source and looked at his unique ideas regarding
to taste and practises. However, a problem to his theory is that he focuses on
the rich capital rather than looking at what the rich lacks in certain
capitals. As most capitals need each other so it can become the cultural power.

In addition, the answer the question, I believe that taste and practises
of classes are meaningful in its own way and because they are part of this idea
of struggle within cultural power. Cultural power looks at the legitimate taste
and practises in the society which is created from us and our choice we make. 


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