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Tastes: an aesthetically and morally sensitive approach

Dr Laurie Hanquinet (University of York)

The sociological study of tastes has for long been dominated by accounts that showed the close relationship between tastes and social stratification. Although these approaches were very useful in the understanding of social inequalities, many of them have also overlooked the importance of aesthetics to account for tastes as observable practices which constitute a key part of people’s lifestyle. Focusing on aesthetic values, this article shows how they are socially and historically situated and investigates to what extent they encapsulate moral principles. I argue that tastes are influenced by social origin and position but in a much more indirect way that it is often assumed in—what I will refer to as—socially determinist approaches to tastes. First social position and origin condition the set of values people are immersed in – according to the social context they live in – and second they influence the practical selection of aesthetico-moral principles people operate in the development of their cultural capital.