Contemporary French Civilization

The cultural tastes of bourgeois pre-adolescents in France: cultural omnivorousness as a new form of cultural capital

Contemporary French Civilization (2019), 44, (4), 359–385.

Abstract

This is an ethnographic study of the reception of popular culture (music, films, and television) among bourgeois, Parisian children between the ages of seven and twelve. Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of social distinction has been used as a model to describe the tastes of the French bourgeoisie since the 1970s, though some sociologists, such as Joël Zaffran and Marie-Laure Pouchadon, have argued that its usefulness in recent decades has waned. In this article, I argue that the notion of social distinction is just as useful now as it was in the 1970s, but that based on the tastes of these young, bourgeois informants, the criteria for what constitutes cultural capital, an essential ingredient for social distinction, have changed. This study supports the notion that the distinction between high and low culture, which used to be central to achieving social distinction, has been supplanted by a new criterion for social distinction that relies on “cultural omnivorousness.” These children’s parents already exhibited some signs of valuing culturally omnivorous tastes and were the first generation to do so. The fact that an appreciation for cultural omnivorousness has been transmitted from bourgeois parents to these pre-adolescent children is a sign that this means of achieving social distinction has gone from a probationary, exploratory phase to a more stable and lasting one.

Ceci est une étude ethnographique de la réception de la culture populaire (musique, cinéma et télévision) chez des enfants bourgeois parisiens âgés de sept à douze ans. Depuis les années 1970, le concept de Pierre Bourdieu de la distinction sociale sert à décrire les goûts de la bourgeoisie française, bien que certains sociologues, tels que Joël Zaffran et Marie-Laure Pouchadon prétendent que son utilité a diminué au cours des dernières décennies. Dans cet article, je soutiens l’idée que la notion de la distinction sociale est aussi utile maintenant qu’elle n’a été dans les années 1970, mais les goûts de ces jeunes informateurs bourgeois indiquent que les critères qui déterminent ce qui constitue le capital culturel, un ingrédient essential de la distinction sociale, ont changé. Cette étude soutient la notion que la distinction entre la culture avec un grand C et la culture populaire, qui autrefois était centrale à l’acquisition de la distinction sociale, a été supplantée par un nouveau critère pour la distinction sociale qui dépend d’une “consomption culturelle omnivore.” Les parents de ces enfants ont déjà présenté des signes de valoriser des goûts culturellement omnivores et ont été la première génération à le faire. Le fait que l’appréciation d’une consomption culturelle omnivore a été transmise des parents bourgeois à ces enfants pré-adolescents est un signe que ce moyen d’acquérir de la distinction sociale est passé d’une phase exploratoire potentiellement temporaire à une phase plus stable et durable.

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Works cited

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Peterson, Richard, and Robert Kern. “Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore.” American Sociological Review, vol. 61, no. 5, 1996, pp. 900–907. Google Scholar

Pouchadon, Marie-Laure, and Joël Zaffran. “La Recomposition des pratiques culturelles des adolescent(e)s: terrain Français, éclairages Québécois.” Enfance & Culture: transmission, appropriation et représentation, edited by Sylvie Octobre. La Documentation française, 2015. pp. 169–186. Google Scholar

Watrin, Laure, and Thomas Legrand. La République Bobo. Stock, 2014. Google Scholar

Avila-Saavedra, Guillermo. “Neither Here Nor There: Consumption of US Media Among Pre-Adolescent Girls in Ecuador.” Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, vol. 4, no. 3, 2013, pp. 255–269. Google Scholar

Azam, Martine, Johann Chaulet, and Jean-Pierre Rouch. “La Préadolescence assistée par ordinateur: de la culture connectée aux tensions identitaires.” Enfance & Culture: transmission, appropriation et représentation, edited by Sylvie Octobre, La Documentation française, 2015, pp. 103–126. Google Scholar

Bellavance, Guy, Myrtille Valex, and Michel Ratté. “Le goût des autres: Une analyse des répertoires culturels de nouvelles élites omnivores.” Sociologie et sociétés, vol. 36, no. 1, 2004, pp. 27–57. Google Scholar

Bloomfield, Jude. “‘Made in Berlin’: Multicultural Conceptual Confusion and Intercultural Reality.” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 9, no. 2, Jul. 2003, pp. 167–183. Google Scholar

Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron. Les Héritiers: les étudiants et la culture. Paris Minuit, 1964. Google Scholar

Calhoun, Craig. “The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Toward a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism.” South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 101, no. 4, Oct. 2002, pp. 869–97. Google Scholar

Chan, Tak Wing, and John H. Goldthorpe. “Social Stratification and Cultural Consumption: Music in England.” European Sociological Review, vol. 23, no. 1, Feb. 2007, pp. 1–19. Google Scholar

Cicchelli, Vincenzo, and Sylvie Octobre. L’Amateur Cosmopolite: goûts et imaginaires culturels juvéniles à l’ère de la globalisation. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Clerval, Anne. Paris sans le Peuple: La gentrification de la capitale. La découverte, 2013. Google Scholar

Corbillé, Sophie. Paris bourgeoise, Paris bohème: La ruée vers l’est. Presses Universitaires de France, 2013. Google Scholar

Coulangeon, Philippe. “Social Stratification of Musical Tastes: Questioning the Cultural Legitimacy Model.” Revue Française de Sociologie, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 3–34. Google Scholar

Donnat, Olivier. “Les univers culturels des Français.” Sociologie et société, vol. 36, no. 1, 2004, pp. 87–103. Google Scholar

Glévarec, Hervé, and Michel Pinet. “Tablatures of Musical Tastes in Contemporary France: Distinction without Intolerance.” Cultural Trends, vol. 21, no. 1, Mar. 2012, pp. 67–88. Google Scholar

Gunther, Scott. “How and Why ‘Bobos’ Became French.” French Politics, Culture & Society, vol. 34, no. 3, Dec. 2016, pp. 105–125. Google Scholar

Holt, Douglas. “Does Cultural Capital Structure American Consumption?” The Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 25, no. 1, 1998, pp. 1–25. Google Scholar

Huong, Nguyen. “Globalization, Consumerism, And The Emergence Of Teens In Contemporary Vietnam.” Journal of Social History, vol. 49, no. 1, 2015, pp. 4–19. Google Scholar

Kuisel, Richard. Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization. U of California P, 1993. Google Scholar

Kuisel, Richard. The French Way: How France Embraced and Rejected American Values and Power. Princeton UP, 2012. Google Scholar

Looseley, David. “Conceptualising Youth Culture in Postwar France.” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 15, no. 3, Aug. 2007, pp. 261–275. Google Scholar

Mandel, Ruth. Cosmopolitan Anxieties: Turkish Challenges to Citizenship and Belonging in Germany. Duke UP, 2008. Google Scholar

Mooij, Marieke de. Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes. 2nd edition. Sage, 2005. Google Scholar

Octobre, Sylvie. “Les Transmissions culturelles chez les adolescents: influences et stratégies individuelles.” Enfance & Culture: transmission, appropriation et représentation, edited by Sylvie Octobre, La Documentation française, 2015, pp. 205–221. Google Scholar

Ollivier, Michèle. “Modes of Openness to Cultural Diversity: Humanist, Populist, Practical, and Indifferent.” Poetics, vol. 36, nos 2–3, 2008, pp. 120–147. Google Scholar

Omenugha, Kate Azuka, Chikezie Emmanuel Uzuegbunam, and Ike S. Ndolo. “Celebrity Culture, Media and the Nigerian Youth: Negotiating Cultural Identities in a Globalised World.” Critical Arts: A South-North Journal of Cultural & Media Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2016, pp. 200–216. Google Scholar

Oscherwitz, Dayna L. “Pop Goes the Banlieue: Musical Métissage and the Articulation of a Multiculturalist Vision.” Contemporary French & Francophone Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, Winter 2004, pp. 43–50. Google Scholar

Peter, Christopher. “Petites Princesses contre super héros: les médias destinés aux 2–14 ans mettent-ils en scène le clivage des genres?” Enfance & Culture: Transmission, Appropriation et Représentation, edited by Sylvie Octobre. La Documentation française, 2015, pp. 129–146. Google Scholar

Peterson, Richard. “Problems in Comparative Research: The Example of Omnivorousness.” Poetics, vol. 33, nos 5–6, 2005, pp. 257–282. Google Scholar

Peterson, Richard, and Robert Kern. “Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore.” American Sociological Review, vol. 61, no. 5, 1996, pp. 900–907. Google Scholar

Pouchadon, Marie-Laure, and Joël Zaffran. “La Recomposition des pratiques culturelles des adolescent(e)s: terrain Français, éclairages Québécois.” Enfance & Culture: transmission, appropriation et représentation, edited by Sylvie Octobre. La Documentation française, 2015. pp. 169–186. Google Scholar

Watrin, Laure, and Thomas Legrand. La République Bobo. Stock, 2014. Google Scholar

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Gunther, Scott

Gunther, Scott