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Reflections on sociology and aesthetic value

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In this article, I survey a number of existing contributions to the debate concerned with sociology and aesthetic value and in doing so make a contribution to the difficult task of formulating an alternative approach. I argue that sociologists have excelled in ‘bringing art down to earth’, but in doing so they can also have a role to play in evaluating cultural objects. Awareness of the socio-historical context in which our judgements are formulated exposes the myth of aesthetic universalism, and institutional approaches highlight the ways in which certain cultural objects are imbued with value. However, by paying attention solely to contextual factors, there is a danger that the cultural object disappears. Therefore, in surveying the field, I call for a more balanced approach that considers value in terms of context, one which combines reflexive awareness of the position from which judgement is formulated with a renewed attention to the cultural object and, importantly, the dynamics of the evaluative moment. For sociologists as for anyone, the prickly matter of value-judgement is a quotidian practice, an active practice, dependent on a number of dynamic contextual factors. It is important to find ways of theorizing our day-to-day interactions with cultural objects through which our judgements – individual and collective – are formulated, and through which we decide what is to be prized.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDistinktion: Journal of Social Theory
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2012

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