Musical Taste and Social Mobility

Musical Taste and Social Mobility

Philippe Coulangeon
Notes et Documents 2013-03
  • Orchestre Nat. de Barbès à la Villette - Picture Benoît Basset - IAU îdFOrchestre Nat. de Barbès à la Villette - Picture Benoît Basset - IAU îdF

Notes & Documents n° 2013-03 - Juin 2013

The Omnivore and the ‘Class Defector'. Musical Taste and Social Mobility in Contemporary France by Philippe Coulangeon.

A large part of current research in cultural sociology highlights the so-called ‘omnivorous’ paradigm. According to this now well-established paradigm, social differentiation of cultural tastes and practices could no longer be addressed in terms of mass vs. elite culture but rather in terms of eclecticism and openness to diversity. Based on French data on musical tastes, this paper first argues that, provided the use of an adequate categorization of genres, the highbrow/lowbrow divide remains highly pertinent in contemporary France. The additional contribution of the paper relates to the way social mobility affects the formation of people tastes. Making use of a class of statistical models specifically designed for the analysis of mobility effects – the so-called diagonal mobility models -, the paper shows that mobile people’s taste results from an unbalanced mixing influence of their class of origin and of their class of destination, where the latter tends to prevail, though. In addition, the analysis set out in the paper does not support the common assumption of a positive correlation between mobility and taste eclecticism. Socially mobiles and especially upwardly mobiles are more likely to display highbrow rather than eclectic musical tastes. Finally, the stronger attraction exerted by the highbrow pattern on the upwardly mobiles’ taste illustrates the symbolic power that the traditional notion of cultural legitimacy still exerts on people beliefs and practices.

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