Taste as an aesthetic, sociological, economic and anthropological concept refers to a cultural patterns of choice and preference. While taste is often understood as a biological concept, it can also be reasonably studied as a social or cultural phenomenon. Taste is about drawing distinctions between things such as styles, manners, consumer goods and works of art. Social inquiry of taste is about the human ability to judge what is beautiful, good and proper.
Social and cultural phenomena concerning taste are closely associated to social relations and dynamics between people. The concept of social taste is therefore rarely separated from its accompanying sociological concepts. An understanding of taste as something that is expressed in actions between people helps to perceive many social phenomena, like fashion, that would otherwise be inconceivable.
Some judgements concerning taste may appear more legitimate than others, but most often there is not a single conception which would be shared by all members of society. People with their individual sensibilities are not very unique either. For instance, aesthetic preferences and attendance to various cultural events are associated with education and social origin. Different socioeconomic groups are likely to have different tastes, and it has been suggested that social class is one of the prominent factors structuring taste.
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Bourdieu argued against Kantian view of pure aesthetics, stating that the legitimate taste of the society is the taste of the ruling class. This position also rejects the idea of genuine good taste, as the legitimate taste is merely a class taste. This idea was also proposed by Simmel, who noted that the upper classes abandon fashions as they are adopted by lower ones. This pattern is known as the trickle-down effect.
Fashion in a Kantian sense is an aesthetic phenomenon and source of pleasure. For Kant, the function of fashion was merely a means of social distinction, and he excluded fashion from pure aesthetics because of its contents arbitrary nature. Simmel, following Kantian thought, recognises the usefulness of fashionable objects in its social context. For him, the function lies in the whole fashion pattern, and cannot be attributed to any single object. Fashion, for Simmel, is a tool of individuation, social distinction, and even class distinction, which are neither utilitarian or aesthetical criteria. Still, both Kant and Simmel agreed that staying out of fashion would be pointless.[4
He used methods drawn from a wide range of disciplines, particularly philosophy, sociology and anthropology. His best known book is Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, in which he argues that judgments of taste are related to social position. His argument is put forward by an original combination of social theory and data from surveys, photographs and interviews, in an attempt to reconcile difficulties such as how to understand the subject within objective structures. In the process, he tried to reconcile the influences of both external social structures and subjective experience on the individual (see structure and agency).
The debate concerning the primacy of structure and agency on human thought and behaviour is one of the central issues in sociology, political science, and the other social HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_science”sciences. In this context, “agency” refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. “Structure”, by contrast, refers to the recurrent patterned arrangements which seem to influence or limit the choices and opportunities that individuals possess. The term “reflexivity” is commonly used by social scientists to refer to the ability of an agent to consciously alter his or her place in the social structure; thus globalization and the emergence of the ‘post-traditional’ society might be said to allow for greater “social reflexivity”.
Social structure is a term used in sociology and the other social sciences to refer to relationships or bonds between groups of individuals (e.g. societies). Whereas ‘structure’ refers to “the macro”, “HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)”agencyHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)”” refers to “the micro”. (See also: Structure and agency)
In a general sense, the term can refer to:
entities or groups in definite relation to each other,
relatively enduring patterns of behaviour and relationship within a society, or
social institutions and norms becoming embedded into social systems in such a way that they shape the behavior of actors within those social systems.
By the 1930s, the term was in general use in social science, especially as a variable whose sub-components needed to be distinguished in relationship to other sociological variables.
Social classes are the hierarchical arrangements of people in society as economic or cultural groups. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, anthropologists, political economists, and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of ‘social stratification’.
Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:
Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group
When the concept first emerged in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it connoted a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the nineteenth century, it came to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-nineteenth century, some scientists used the term “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity. For the German nonpositivist sociologist, Georg Simmel, culture referred to “the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history”.
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In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely results of human genetics. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. Following World War II, the term became important, albeit with different meanings, in other disciplines such as cultural studies, organizational psychology
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