Evaluative judgements: ethics, aesthetics and 'bad taste'

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Bourdieusian research demonstrates that judgements about ‘bad taste’ are in great part determined by negation. In seeking to extend the reach of sociological research beyond this relational account, this article theorizes the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of evaluative judgements. First, with reference to value-rational social action, it considers the ethical dimension. Relatedly, it draws attention to debates concerning the limits of what can be artistically represented and what offends ethical sensibilities. Second, in considering the aesthetic dimension, the article theorizes an account of evaluative judgement situated in the everyday: one that pays close attention to how it is formed at a micro-level on an individual and collective basis. This attention to the interaction between individuals and objects, largely neglected in Bourdieu’s analysis, enables us to zoom in to see that ‘bad taste’ is a changeable notion and the ‘bad’ can become ‘good’ through evaluative reworking that challenges existing interpretations and evaluations. By performing the difficult task of identifying and distinguishing the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of evaluative judgement, the article argues that we can gain a multi-layered understanding of what and how people value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-51
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number1
Early online date9 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • evaluative judgements
  • ethics
  • aesthetics
  • bad taste
  • offence
  • evaluative reworking


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