Project summary

This project explores the changes that have taken place in the classification and social valuation of culture and the arts in five European countries – Finland, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK – in the past 50 years. Special emphasis is given to temporality; besides its longitudinal design, which is necessary in order to address many key issues in recent cultural sociology, the project particularly seeks to identify and clarify the interrelatedness of articulations of new, emerging and rising generations (as distinguished from old, passing, etc.) and the articulations of ‘high’, valued and legitimate culture and the arts (as distinguished from ‘low’, illegitimate, etc.). Thus, the project will attempt to integrate two research traditions in cultural sociology that are rarely studied together: the Bourdieu-inspired tradition of classification, stratification and patterning of cultural tastes and the sociology of generations and intellectuals inspired by Karl Mannheim.

The project involves a multimethod, longitudinal and cross-national study of cultural classifications and distinctions from a generational perspective. The core of the project is a comprehensive study of newspaper coverage of culture/the arts in Finland, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK between 1960 and 2010. In addition, there will be two subprojects – one analyzing the entries in Who’s Who national editions from the same five countries over a similar time frame of 50 years and the other utilizing existing statistical data sets, again from the same five countries, covering several decades. The newspaper data will be sampled from the cultural sections of the following leading national daily newspapers: Helsingin Sanomat in Finland, Le Monde in France, ABC (1960–1975) and El País (1976–2010) in Spain, Dagens Nyheter in Sweden and The Guardian in the UK. These data will be examined by means of both qualitative and quantitative content analysis. We have currently finished the extensive data collection and are commencing the analysis of the data.

Cross-national differences in cultural distinctions and their temporal changes will be juxtaposed vis-à-vis the more general historical and social structural contexts of each country in which the cultural classification systems are embedded. The project will contribute to our understanding of the changing nature of cultural classifications and hierarchies as well as of the interrelatedness and temporal aspects of cultural and social stratification.