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    Review of 'From Aristocratic to Ordinary: Shifting Modes of Elite Distinction'

    From Aristocratic to Ordinary: Shifting Modes of Elite DistinctionCrossref
    Useful advance on the existing studies of cultural capital in the age of the Internet of Things
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    From Aristocratic to Ordinary: Shifting Modes of Elite Distinction

    How do elites signal their superior social position via the consumption of culture? We address this question by drawing on 120 years of “recreations” data ( N = 71,393) contained within Who’s Who, a unique catalogue of the British elite. Our results reveal three historical phases of elite cultural distinction: first, a mode of aristocratic practice forged around the leisure possibilities afforded by landed estates, which waned significantly in the late-nineteenth century; second, a highbrow mode dominated by the fine arts, which increased sharply in the early-twentieth century before gently receding in the most recent birth cohorts; and, third, a contemporary mode characterized by the blending of highbrow pursuits with everyday forms of cultural participation, such as spending time with family, friends, and pets. These shifts reveal changes not only in the contents of elite culture but also in the nature of elite distinction, in particular, (1) how the applicability of emulation and (mis)recognition theories has changed over time, and (2) the emergence of a contemporary mode that publicly emphasizes everyday cultural practice (to accentuate ordinariness, authenticity, and cultural connection) while retaining many tastes that continue to be (mis)recognized as legitimate.

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      This article elucidates the question of whether cultural capital possession among the upper classes have taken on new forms and dimensions in the age of the Internet of Things. It sheds light on whether the elites have embraced cultural aspects that were formerly deemed ordinary. There is now much blending in between highbrow and lowbrow or middlebrow tastes, hence omnivorousness of cultural capital possession is sought after by the majority. Various aesthetics have also become widely accessible and even mainstream in their distribution. This article highlights this issue and informs the reader about the exact combination of the various "brows" - high, middle, low - that is assumed to make up cultural capital omnivorousness today. The research methods used are new and novel, and chronicle an evolution of cultural capital, conducted in the spirit of big data.  It is a useful advance on the existing studies of cultural capital, from an European perspective.


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