I was once told that eating baguette on the way home from Sainsburys was acceptable because "the French do it". The British middle classes have been known in turns to admire and also be disgusted by the alleged habits of their French neighbours. It's interesting how sometimes, especially when it comes to cuisine, the British yield to what we imagine the French would do. Is it a way of legitimising middle class tastes and marking habits that deviate as inferior in some way?
The reading for this session is the Introduction and Part I of Distinction, in which Pierre Bourdieu (1930 - 2002) documents empirical research into the habits of the French of all classes and critiques the mechanics of cultural reproduction focusing particularly of the notion of taste. Much as the British refer to the French sometimes as their cultural benchmark, Bourdieu finds that the French working classes define their aesthetics of taste in terms of a dominant culture even as aesthetic differences divide the classes.
Bourdieu was a sociologist of the second half of the twentieth century; he drew heavily on philosophical ideas and his notions of habitus and practice influenced thinkers across many disciplines. In common with some of his contemporaries, his work places political and social power at the centre of apparently mundane and innocent activities, and encourages us to look again at aspects of everyday life that seem too commonplace to be interesting.