Culture and Popular Culture: A Case for
Examines the sociological analysis of popular culture, largely
influenced by the sociology of culture but not confined to it.
2 major issues: extreme interdisciplinarity and bias towards a mass
LG argues for the unique contributions that sociology can make to
the study of popular culture.
Raymond Williams four uses of ‘popular’:
◦ 1) liked by many people,
◦ 2) inferior culture,
◦ 3) work that seeks to be popular,
◦ 4) people's culture: made by and for 'the people'.
Associating popular culture with 'mass culture' gives it a negative
Schudson and Mukerji: Beliefs and practices widely
shared within a given population, and the objects
that embody those beliefs and organize those
practices. Inclusive definition.
Levine: folklore of industrial society.
Key sociological questions about popular culture:
"How is it produced and consumed? How is it read
and understood? How does it intersect with other
aspects of cultural, political, and economic life? What
are its sociological “effects” and implications,
Production of culture: empirical study of culture-producing
organizations within specific institutional contexts. This perspective
developed partly in response to political denunciations of popular
culture as mere consequence of market demands and capitalist
processes. This perspective looks at the unique role played by specific
industries and their politics, structure and norms.
Shortcoming of the production of culture perspective: inattention to the
issue of meaning and the role that consumers play in producing
Consumption and interpretation perspectives. Focus on how audiences
consume media. Often, audiences read cultural texts in surprising
Textual analysis/media studies: focus on 'politics of representation'
Fandom (Harrington and Bielby)
Ethnographic and historical research
Significant work on popular culture comes from outside of
sociology, and much is interdisciplinary.
Importance of cultural studies, especially Birmingham School. Focus
on youth culture, sub-cultures and working-class cultures. Heavily
influenced by Gramsci's concept of hegemony.
Also influenced by the Frankfurt School.
Tendency in American versions of cultural studies to be less
◦ Regarding the relationship between cultural sociology and cultural studies:
"while cultural studies scholars often see sociologists as apolitical and
inattentive to power relations, sociologists lament cultural studies’ lack of
Tendency to treat popular culture as mass media, rendering it the
domain of media studies and communications rather than sociology.
◦ Need to understand media changes as social changes, not just institutional
Consolidation of the media. On the one hand, more power for
corporations than ever before, on the other, more agency for
individuals. Those with money and education benefit more in this
New relationship between popular culture and populism, which is
not restricted now to the left. Suggests contrasting production of
right-wing populism with its reception.