Classical, country, or heavy metal: “Educational level and ancestry influence your cultural taste.”

A cultural snob with a fondness for classical music or a cultural eater with a wide taste in music? “Educational level and social background influence your cultural taste,” explains former sociology student Romi Ommens in her master’s thesis. “This perpetuates social inequality.”

Illustration: Jeroen de Leger

Where does the inspiration for your master’s thesis come from?

“In my second year of university, I took the course “Cultural Sociology” with Peter Achterberg. In one of the lessons he spoke about cultural taste. Personally, I like music, and I like to attend concerts or festivals, so I am a real lover of culture. I felt that my taste is in music It was very unique.I’ve always felt that the bands that I love to listen to are not appreciated by everyone.

“After this lecture, I found out that my tastes are more predictable than I thought. Your cultural taste is related to the social class you belong to. My parents are not highly educated. On the other hand, I have completed college so I am a ‘social climber.'” We share pretty much the same taste in music, we even went to Rock Werchter together (big pop rock festival in Belgium, ed.).

“But in recent years, I’ve also come to appreciate styles of music that I didn’t inherit from home. Studying at university ensures that you are in contact with other people and different tastes in music. So I wondered if my wide taste in music was a logical consequence of my social background and social progress. So I was chosen. To write my thesis on this topic quickly.

What is the topic of your thesis?

“I investigated whether level of education and moving up the social ladder – also known as intergenerational mobility – can determine a person’s cultural taste. For example, people with higher education may be more likely to have a broad cultural taste than people with Less education But it may also be the case that social risers in particular have a broad cultural flair.

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“In my research I looked at cultural taste in the broadest sense of the word: music, art, literature, TV shows, movies, food, and cultural activities such as visiting the opera. There is a difference between ‘high-level’ and ‘low-culture’ cultural activities.”

Although what is perceived as “high-level” and “low-level” is culturally and contextually dependent, most people describe French cuisine, classical music, and visiting the opera as forms of high-level culture. Fast food, heavy metal, and going to the movies are common examples of low culture.

How do you deal with that?

In my research, I used data from the UK and performed a ‘latent class analysis’ on that data. This allows you to identify different types of cultural consumers. For example, you have to look at whether certain patterns are common in a society. Finally, based on To existing theories, four types of cultural consumers have been identified.

Rummy Omns. Photo: Jack Tommers

“First of all, there are the highly cultured snobs. These are often somewhat older, highly educated cultural consumers with an exclusive and elitist cultural taste. For example, they like to go to the opera. This clearly distinguishes them from consumers who hate their taste .

“In addition, there are the highly educated, cultural carnivores. These are often young adults who have broad and inclusive tastes and embrace forms of high and low culture. For example, they love classical music and heavy metal music.

“People who fall into the third group are university graduates with low education. They have very limited taste and often don’t like anything except one thing. For example, in the United Kingdom, this group might value country music primarily. Finally, there is a fourth group. : pop culture group Young people in this group often enjoy all forms of popular culture.

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What are the results of your search?

My research shows that education level affects a person’s cultural taste. Moving up the social ladder also affects one’s cultural taste, but not in the way you expected. I believed that moving up the social ladder would lead to a carnivorous taste pattern: a mixed taste of low-culture forms of childhood culture and high-culture forms of culture due to the new social status. However, this is not the case: social activists are defined as more arrogant than highly cultured.

“In addition, my research shows that there are limits to the tolerant and inclusive taste of cultural carnivores. For example, heavy metal music — the genre most likely to be classified as low culture — is accepted by high culture people. But country music Do not approve of carnivorous culture.

Why is your research important?

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that your cultural choices, tastes and preferences determine who you meet and what class you belong to. For example, the people you meet at a classical concert are often very different from the people you meet at a France Power concert.

“This is troubling because this is how culture and cultural taste perpetuate inequality. If everyone stays in their own bubble, separate social networks and worlds of experience will emerge, and people with higher education will not be able to easily ‘open doors’ for someone They do not know him from another social class.

“The truth is that highly educated intellectuals rarely come into contact with less educated cultural beings. My research reveals this, and I hope that policymakers and organizations will do more to combat cultural inequality.

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“They can do this by introducing children to different cultural activities at an early age. Because how can you learn to appreciate something like a museum if you have never been here? It is not surprising that many people think that a museum is a dusty and boring place that only educated people come to.” high above.


Sophie Baker

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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