We reside in the growing mainstream time of the sociology of taste. Think back to the very first time you observed someone gently discuss of “cultural capital” at a gathering, usually another person’s inglorious desire or accumulation of it; or when you first observed someone compliment “the subversion of the dominant in a cultural field,” or use the terms develop a plan, settle, placement, or utilizing in a conversation of a much popular “cultural producer’s” profession. You might have believed that you were listening to Walls Street lenders detail mergers and products, but these were English majors!
This increase of sociological thinking has led to sociological living, ways of considering and seeing that are designed to be able to bring out, yet somehow evade, the persistent demystification sociology needs. Seeing art as a product, mere stuff, rather than a work, has become a sign of a good liberal mind-set. Too often, being on the left tasks you with a cautious everyday desire to prevent being marked with snobbery. And yet despite this everlasting reevaluation of all principles, the actual public purchase seems unchanged; the feeling of it all being a game not only continues, but solidifies.
The preliminary demystifying shock of the sociology of life in the academia partially accounts for its reputation. Thanks to the dead ends of certain types of European hermeneutics, the understanding that recurring studies of Balzac novellas might not tremble the fundamentals of the topic, let alone those of capitalism. It became more appealing to ask why certain classes of individuals might be fascinated (and other classes not interested) in Balzac at all. No more appeals to the mysterious characteristics of genius. Seen from the longue durée of social change, individual authors or works were less essential than collectives or status groups, places or techniques. Like latter-day Northrop Fryes, equipped with information, the critic-sociologists transformed authors back into “literature” as a program, and from there into refractions of requirements, organizations and classes.