Social Status, Lifestyle and Cultural Consumption: A Comparative Study

This project is part of Phase II of the Cultures of Consumption Research Programme of the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. It is a macro-sociological study of cultural consumption in Britain, France, the Netherlands and the US. We bring together an international team of scholars to study the social bases of consumption and lifestyle in these countries. We shall investigate how cultural consumption might be related to social status---a hierarchy of perceived and often accepted social superiority, equality and inferiority. We shall also investigate how the status--consumption link might be modified by social class, education, income, age, gender and ethnicity.

Outline of project

There is a variety of theories purporting to explain how cultural assumption is, or is not, related to the social structure. The empirical validity of many of these theories is open to serious challenge. We argue that the theoretical and empirical difficulties concerning the social bases of cultural consumption is, to a large extent, due to a disregard of Max Weber's distinction between social status and social class. While class is known to have important consequences for individuals' life chances, such as economic security and prospects, it is social status that is more directly related to cultural consumption. We shall compare and evaluate three main theses on the social bases of cultural consumption, namely Bourdieu's class--culture homology thesis, the postmodern individualisation thesis, and the cultural omnivore thesis. We will develop an alternative theory based on Max Weber's distinction between social class and social status, and will evaluate this new theory using a wide range of emprical data on cultural consumption.

Key questions

Approach

The project will be based on the secondary, and primarily quantitative analysis of large-scale and nationally representative data-sets collected in recent years. The surveys that we have identified cover a wide range of both `high' and `popular' cultural activities, thus allowing us to consider the social bases of, for example, reading tabloids as well as broadsheets, going to the cinema as well as the opera, listerning to pop as well as classical music.


Researchers


Published and Draft Papers

comments very welcome, but please do not cite or quote draft papers without permission. (pdf files)
  1. Social Status and Cultural Consumption
    (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, sample introductory chapter)

  2. The social stratification of cultural consumption: Some policy implications of a research project
    (with John H Goldthorpe, Cultural Trends, 2007, 16:373--384.)

  3. Data, methods and interpretation in analyses of cultural consumption: A reply to Peterson and Wuggenig
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, 2007, Poetics, 35:317--329.)

  4. Social stratification and cultural consumption: the visual arts in England
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, 2007, Poetics, 35:168--190.)

  5. Class and status: the conceptual distinction and its empirical relevance
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, American Sociological Review, 2007, 72:512--532.)

  6. Social stratification and cultural consumption: music in England
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, European Sociological Review, 2007, 23:1--29)

  7. Social status and newspaper readership
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, American Journal of Sociology, 2007, 112:1095--1134.)

  8. The social stratification of theatre, dance and cinema attendance
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, Cultural Trends, 2005, 14:193--212.)

  9. Is there a status order in contemporary British society? evidence from the occupational structure of friendship
    (Tak Wing Chan and John H Goldthorpe, European Sociological Review, 2004, 20:383--401.)

Events and Presentations


Materials restricted to project members:


Contact Info:

Department of Sociology
University of Oxford
Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

tel: +44 (1865) 286176
fax: +44 (1865) 286171
email: tw [dot] chan [at] sociology [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk

Last modified: Mon Jun 21 19:30:14 BST 2010