Sangeetha (1537257) : Toward a Definiton of Popular Culture

Parker, Holt N. “Toward A Definition Of Popular Culture.” History and Theory 50.2 (2011): 147-70. JSTOR. Web. 16 June 2016.

The author is of the opinion that the common definitions of pop culture cannot be applied to pre-industrial or pre-capitalist societies. He begins by considering already existing definitions of popular culture and critiquing them. He quotes Tony Bennet in saying:

The concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theoretical blind alleys. (147)

He then takes up definitions as stated by Strinati and Dick Hebdige (149) moving to the definitions provided by Bennett and Storey. He is of the opinion that these definitions are quantitative due to the problem of “exclusion of minority tastes” (150).

Taking into consideration the commonly accepted view of pop culture as “the culture which originates from the people” (153) and points out that there is a certain hegemony involved in deciding who falls under the category of “the people” which can then lead to further division resulting in high and low culture.

In attempting to define pop culture in a broader sense, he is of the opinion that more accuracy can be achieved in moving away from the Marxian ideal to a Weberian one (158). He draws inspiration from Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital to arrive at his first tentative definition:

Popular culture consists of the productions of those without cultural capital, of those without access to the approved means of symbolic and cultural production. (161)

He adds to this definition by stating that popular culture also includes “those things that require only small amounts of cultural capital to produce and to consume.” (163). He continues to draw from Bourdieu while citing examples of popular culture as seen in Andy Warhol and ABBA to define popular culture as “unauthorized culture” (165).

The author limits his field of study by looking at popular culture elements in the Artworld and in Visual Media while neglecting other consumer-oriented fields.


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