High Culture/Low Culture/Popular Culture

Although postmodernist theory argues that the distinction between popular and high culture is diminishing and thus the boundaries between classes have blurred, social stratification still subsist due to the social hierarchy of taste that relies on capital rather than accessibility.  This argument is reinforced by the case study of Dutch television conducted by Kuiper.  The stratified audience revealed by the ethnographic research unveils that, despite its’ accessibility and ties to popular culture, “television has not led to homogenization, democratization or fragmentation of taste” (371, Kuiper, Television and Taste hierarchy).  These findings signify that a specific sort of knowledge, or what Bourdieu has coined as capital, is required.

The taste hierarchy is dictated by the economic, cultural and symbolic (etc.) capital of a demographic, thus social class and education often determines an individual’s interests.  However, many other factors can contribute such as age, religion, ethnicity and gender – further complicating the notion of cultural liberalism.   Yet regardless of the accessibility rendered by technological developments and glocalization or the social fragmentation brought on by subcultures, the “taste public'” will always remain socially stratified.  As Kuiper illustrates from her survey:  “people look at the same thing, to which they have equal access, but they don’t have the skills to decode it meaningfully” (371, Kuiper, Television and Taste Hierarchy).

Though popular culture has debatably blurred the boundaries between class and taste in that an individual of high culture may be partial to something of low culture, this appreciation is unilateral. The average ‘joe’ will never to fully comprehend the works of high culture due to the absence of some form of capital. Despite the fact that the conceptual demarcation between high and low culture have slowly deteriorated in the wake of popular culture, there still remains a political and economic dimension that fortifies this distinction. This liberal pluralist view accounts for televisions stratified audience in the context of today’s contemporary popular culture.

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