Essay Planning and Notes.

“Like Genet, we are interested in subculture – in the expressive forms and rituals of those subordinate groups – the teddy boys and mods and rockers, the skinheads and the punks – who are alternately dismissed, denounced and canonized; treated at different times as threats to public order and as harmless buffoons. Like Genet also, we are intrigued by the most mundane objects – a safety pin, a pointed shoe, a motor cycle – which, none the less, like the tube of vaseline, take on a symbolic dimension, becoming a form of stigmata, tokens of a self-imposed exile.” – Dick Hedbidge, pg.2, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’

“For, just as the conflict between Genet’s ‘unnatural’ sexuality and the policemen’s ‘legitimate’ outrage can be encapsulated in a single object, so the tensions between dominant and subordinate groups can be found reflected in the surfaces of subculture.” – Dick Hedbidge, pg.2, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’

“On the other hand, for those who erect them into icons, who use them as words or as curses, these objects become signs of forbidden identity, sources of value.” – Dick Hedbidge, pg.2, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’

“The meaning of subculture is, then, always in dispute, and style is the area in which the opposing definitions clash with most dramatic force. Much of the available space in this book will therefore be taken up with a description of the process whereby objects are made to mean and mean again as ‘style’ in subculture. As in Genet’s novels, this process begins with a crime against the natural order, though in this case the deviation may seem slight indeed – the cultivation of a quiff, the acquisition of a scooter or a record or a certain type of suit. But it ends in the construction of a style, in a gesture of defiance or contempt, in a smile or a sneer. It signals a Refusal.” – Dick Hedbidge, pg.3, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’

Defining whats culture is:

  • “The first – the one which is probably most familiar to the reader – was essentially classical and conservative. It represented culture as a standard of aesthetic excellence: ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’ (Arnold, 1868), and it derived from an appreciation of ‘classic’ aesthetic form (opera, ballet, drama, literature, art).” – Dick Hedbidge, pg.6, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’
  • The second, traced back by Williams to Herder and the eighteenth century (Williams, 1976), was rooted in anthropology. Here the term ‘culture’ referred to a

    . . . particular way of life which expresses certain meanings and values not only in art and learning, but also in institutions and ordinary behaviour. The analysis of culture, from such a definition, is the clarification of the meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life, a particular culture. (Williams, 1965) –  Dick Hedbidge, pg.6, 1979, ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style.’

Defining the concept of a canon:

  • “Simply, a canon is an assembly of texts (some fictional, some non-fictional) that a culture (i.e., people whose social roles allow them to influence such things) deems valuable and seeks to preserve.” – Paul Trout, ‘Canon, Curriculum, Culture’
  • Texts within a canon “have undergone a lengthy winnowing process (canon formation) that has tested and “proven” their enduring value to a specific culture. The process that winnows canonical texts from less enduringly valuable texts is not neutral or impartial, as some defenders of the canon assert but highly contentious, involving the interplay of all kinds of forces–historical, antiquarian, economic, philosophical, demographic, aesthetic, cultural, political, etc.” – Paul Trout, ‘Canon, Curriculum, Culture’
  • “It seems to me that canon formation operates in a similar manner. Authors advance texts that are then subjected to all kinds of “testing.” That is, the texts are published or performed, purchased, reviewed, analyzed, responded to, critiqued, misprisioned, further explained, overly praised, venomously traduced, emendated, altered, preserved or forgotten, rediscovered, republished, re- edited, re-reviewed, etc. This winnowing process is carried out by agents in diverse intellectual communities and social roles: editors, producers, writers, critics, readers and theater goers, librarians, reviewers, academicians, anthologizers, historians, collectors, biographers, dealers, promoters and advertisers (as far back as the eighteenth century!), and other socially sanctioned “taste-makers” and culture producers.” – Paul Trout, ‘Canon, Curriculum, Culture’
  • “The canon, I suggest, should be envisioned as a series of concentric circles, like a target, in which canonical works have varying degrees of canonicity. In other words, it is not a simple case of a text being either in or out of the canon, or of canonical works being canonical to the same degree.” – Paul Trout, ‘Canon, Curriculum, Culture’
  • Albert Cook has argued in Canons and Wisdoms (1993)

‘music represents the most radical and most absolute form of the negation of the world, and especially the social world, which the bourgeois ethos tends to demand of all forms of art’

“In the decades since Distinction was written, the proliferation of recorded music has accentuated the role of music as central to many kinds of popular subcultures, especially for the relatively disadvantaged, youth groups and ethnic minorities (for the case of rap, see Krims, 2000).”

Given this dramatic transformation of the music industry, it is notable that since the early 1990s sociologists have also used data specifically on musical taste to detect a breaking down of this opposition between high and low culture.

“A generalised capacity to neutralize ordinary urgencies and to bracket off practical ends, a durable inclination and aptitude for practice without a practical function (which) can only be constituted within an experience of

12 Situating the analysis

the world freed from urgency and through the practise of activities which are an end in themselves, such as scholastic exercises or the contemplation of works of art.” (Bourdieu, 1984: 55)

Bourdieu’s second claim was that of homology across fields. Bourdieu argued that each cultural field (literature, visual arts, journalism and so on) has its own autonomy, and can only be understood in terms of the relationships that are internal to it. It is important to know how an artist, for example, situates herself, and is positioned against, other artists. Obtaining a distinctive reputation involves marking out a particular space within a field. This insistence on recognising the autonomy of fields is important given that Bourdieu is sometimes accused of being a class determinist. However, he also took issue with those modernist aesthetes who claim that each artistic world has its own form immanent to itself which is irreducible to any other. He argued that there are homologies across fields, so that similar principles can be detected across different worlds and thereby general principles of classification and distinction unravelled. Fields are generally characterised by a polarisation between those who are positively endowed with honour within them and those who are not, and then, at a secondary level, between

Culture after Distinction 13

those who are advantaged through taking ‘autonomous’ positions, and those who import advantages derived from other fields, most importantly those who import ‘economic’ and political considerations into the field in question (Benson and Neveu, 2005).

“Bourdieu’s third claim was about the importance of reproduction and inheritance. His celebrated and controversial theory of habitus drew attention to how we come to habituate ourselves to certain routines and thereby reproduce practices. This takes place within our own lives, and also across generations. Whereas in pre-modern societies the inheritance of property is the most important way of passing on advantage, in modern societies a secondary mechanism competes with and even surpasses it. This is the reproduction circuit associated with schooling and formal education. Those parents equipped with cultural capital are able to drill their children in the cultural forms that predispose them to perform well in the educational system through their ability to handle ‘abstract’ and ‘formal’ categories. These children are able to turn their cultural capital into credentials, which can then be used to acquire advantaged positions themselves. In this way, a circuit of cultural reproduction, which is also social reproduction, exists. Bourdieu’s claim is that even within apparently dynamic, fast-moving cultural fields, one can detect what Walter Benjamin (1973) would see as the reproduction of the ‘ever-same’. The same kind of dominant classes are able to remake themselves, and their children, in remarkably persistent ways. However, if this is true for classes, then, as Bourdieu acknowledged in much of his later work, we need to broaden this perspective so as to identify how similar processes operate in relation to gendered and ethnic social divisions, and to investigate the relations between these and the mechanisms reproducing class divisions.”

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