Distinction through omnivorous musical tastes in Germany: A grounded theory approach to cultural omnivores and strategies of distinction in the case of music
Department of Sociology University of Tübingen Tübingen, Germany
There are several accounts to the relations of social stratification and cultural differences in current sociology. Debates ? as the one about the omnivore-univore thesis by Richard A. Peterson ? are showing that the strong homology argument as proposed by Pierre Bourdieu might not be adequately describing contemporary societies. In this paper it will be argued that cultural omnivorouness is not an argument against bourdieusian theory of taste. Rather there should be a refinement of Bourdieu's theory using the ongoing debates to develop his model further.
Recent research indicates that display of "patterned tolerance" or "openness" towards different types of music (including high as well as popular culture) can be interpreted as strategies of distinction. But there are still many unanswered questions. What are the social meanings of different combinations of knowledge about, participation in, preferences and dislikes for music? What are the conditions under which "omnivorous taste" is evolving? What does it mean to the individuals themselves? What are the relevant classifications made by the individuals themselves? And most important: What is the social meaning of "omnivorous" taste(s) in relation to other taste patterns?
In contrast to most research on this phenomenon ? mainly using quantitative methods to find omnivorous taste patterns in the society under scrutiny ? the presented project is using a grounded theory approach in the tradition of Anselm Strauss. The data used for interpretation includes observations and non-standardized interviews focusing on musical taste, usage of music in everyday life and the (re)production of taste through family and education. It will be argued that there are several types of "tolerant" or "omnivorous" musical tastes with different meanings on the micro-level which can be interpreted as strategies of distinction. In discussion with recent research on musical taste and cultural omnivorousness the author presents preliminary findings from his research project on omnivorous musical taste in Germany.