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Herbert Gans
“New Introduction” from High Culture and Popular Culture
Culture Wars
 One version of the culture wars: High culture vs.
popular culture.
◦High culture: educated, elite, sophisti...
The Concept of Culture
Culture: "practices, goods, and ideas
classified broadly under the arts..., whether
used for educa...
Cultural Hierarchy
 Taste cultures: a variety of popular cultures which Gans uses to
replace the idea of a singular mass ...
Beyond Class
 Other issues besides class?
◦ 1) age, gender, and race.
◦ 2) Many people consume multiple cultures. Peterso...
Supply and Demand
 Supply side changes:
◦ Increasing tendency for supply to generate or re-direct demand.
◦ Increasing ne...
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Herbert Gans: Popular Culture and High Culture

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Herbert Gans: Popular Culture and High Culture

  1. 1. Herbert Gans “New Introduction” from High Culture and Popular Culture
  2. 2. Culture Wars  One version of the culture wars: High culture vs. popular culture. ◦High culture: educated, elite, sophisticated, smart. ◦Popular culture: mass, lowbrow, crass, simple.  Culture wars are "really a debate about the nature of the good life" (4). ◦High vs. popular culture is a variation of class conflict. ◦It's also a debate about the role of the market. Should market forces, such as consumer choice, decide what kind of culture gets made, or should an educated elite make these choices?
  3. 3. The Concept of Culture Culture: "practices, goods, and ideas classified broadly under the arts..., whether used for education and aesthetic and spiritual enlightenment or for entertainment and diversion," (5). Also, information, wisdom, values. Focus on public culture, shared in the public square rather than in the privacy of home. Key Issue: Meaning!
  4. 4. Cultural Hierarchy  Taste cultures: a variety of popular cultures which Gans uses to replace the idea of a singular mass culture. ◦ The usual breakdown is highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow. ◦ Aesthetic: standards and values that shape how we express ourselves and how we judge art. ◦ Creators of taste cultures: artists ◦ Users of taste cultures: audiences ◦ Suppliers: Orgs and their leaders who help to shape and distribute culture goods (products/content). ◦ Taste publics: groups who share taste culture.  What factors shape class? Education. Occupation. Income.  Class explains only a portion of cultural choices.
  5. 5. Beyond Class  Other issues besides class? ◦ 1) age, gender, and race. ◦ 2) Many people consume multiple cultures. Peterson's omnivores for instance.  Some tastes and preferences cut across groups. For instance, the overwhelming preference for landscapes cited by Halle. However, there are few universals.  Important changes in recent decades: ◦ 1) Convergence: some cultures are common together and some distinctions have faded. Ex. More lower middle class museum attendance. More overall TV consumption. Sometimes involves gentrifying: elites take up lower brow cultural forms. ◦ 2) Divergence: New tastes emerge and other shaping factors evolve. Sometimes a factor of new market groups. ◦ 3) Omnivorousness: More and more people who like all kinds of culture. Young people in particular.
  6. 6. Supply and Demand  Supply side changes: ◦ Increasing tendency for supply to generate or re-direct demand. ◦ Increasing need to adapt to higher costs and shifting market. ◦ More production of culture than ever before, making supply side more important. ◦ More channels, more movies, more music than ever before. But some sectors face significant decline, newspapers especially. ◦ Distributors of culture are increasingly corporatized, and thus shaped more by business decisions than aesthetic ones.  Demand side changes: ◦ 1) more disposable income, paired with an increase in economic inequality. ◦ 2) Increased in the median educational level. ◦ 3) decline in the significance of culture as a status indicator.  Increasing role of gender cultures, racial and ethnic cultures, and gay and lesbian cultures.  New Media: 1) Expansion of television 2) The internet.

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