Based on Danish survey data subjected to correspondence analysis, this article aims at carrying out a critical assessment of Pierre Bourdieu's theory of social differentiation in advanced societies as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. As his theory goes, capital volume (economic + cultural capital) and capital composition (the relative weight of the two) are the main dimensions of social differentiation, which structure the space of social positions as well as the space of lifestyles. The central discussion of the article concerns the character of cultural capital, and the role it plays in the formation of social divisions. This leads to a discussion of four core questions: first, are there signs of a strong individualism and, correspondingly, a weak social structuring of lifestyles? The study does not find support for this view. Second, does classical highbrow culture play a central role as a marker of distinction? Cultural capital in a contemporary Danish context appears to be less related to traditional highbrow cultural consumption than in Bourdieu's studies in France some decades ago. Third, is there a rise in the omnivorousness and tolerant taste within the cultural elite? This study answers negatively, as those adhering to the preferences that are most typical for the cultural elite tend to simultaneously avoid or mark distance to popular expressions of taste. Fourth, are there traces of new forms of cultural capital? The study uncovers a cleavage between a global orientation or a form of cosmopolitanism or "connectedness", on the one hand, and a local and traditional orientation on the other. The conceptualisation of such differences are questioned, however, as current sociology appears to conceptualise social divisions rather systematically in ways that automatically euphemise the orientation of intellectuals towards the world.
Poetics, 2008, Vol 36, Issue 1, p. 45-70
cultural capital; social differentiation; Bourdieu; social space; lifestyles; cultural consumption; omnivorousness; snobbism; Denmark; cosmopolitanism