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Bourdieu and Adorno: Converging theories of culture and inequality

David Gartman
Theory and Society
Vol. 41, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 41-72
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41349134
Page Count: 32
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Bourdieu and Adorno: Converging theories of culture and inequality
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Abstract

The theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Theodor Adorno both conceive culture as legitimating the inequalities of modern societies. But they postulate different mechanisms of legitimation. For Bourdieu, modern culture is a class culture, characterized by socially ranked symbolic differences among classes that make some seem superior to others. For Adorno, modern culture is a mass culture, characterized by a socially imposed symbolic unity that obscures class differences behind a facade of leveled democracy. In his later writings, however, Bourdieu's theory converges with that of Adorno. He too begins to privilege the high culture of intellectuals over mass culture by employing the universal standard of autonomy from economic interests. But there remains one vital difference between these theories. Bourdieu grounds the origins of a critical, autonomous culture in specific social structures, while Adorno grounds it in technology.

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