High culture (sociology)

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High culture as a sociological term encompasses the cultural achievements used by opinion- determining elites that are accepted as particularly valuable - in contrast to everyday culture , mass culture , popular culture , folk culture or subculture .

Historically, high culture has always been the culture of the leading social class, i.e. of the nobility . Since the loss of power of the nobility after the French Revolution , attempts have been made to define high culture in terms of content and to combine it with the greater achievements of those who are culturally active and interested (instead of their better descent). As a result, large parts of the nobility joined popular culture, as the close connection between circus, courtly horsemanship and courtly ballroom dancing around 1900 shows (compare, for example, Carl Godlewski ). So high culture became a favorite city of the educated middle class .

Today the term mostly refers to music (typically the E-area of ​​the division of E- and U-Music ), visual arts, literature (" Höhenkammliteratur ") and performing arts (dance, theater). These cultural forms must meet certain aesthetic standards and correspond to the applicable educational ideals . The universities since the 19th century played a decisive role, especially the emerging humanities . - High culture does not necessarily have to include all culturally highly developed areas. In Europe, for example, calligraphy (in contrast to Asia), sport , circus arts or design (“handicrafts”) are traditionally not included.

In cultural-political conflicts, especially in German-speaking countries, “high culture” was occasionally fought against as “anti-mass” or “elitist” in the 20th century. Conversely, it served to assert the claim to leadership of the educated elite (e.g. as a “ leading culture ”). It was often argued that the masses would also choose high culture if they were not dumbfounded by the products of a “culture industry” (as in the cultural sociology of Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno : Culture Industry - Enlightenment as Mass Fraud ).

The dichotomy of high culture and mass culture was increasingly called into question with the gain in power of definition through popular culture spread through the mass media . The controversy of the 1968 movement drew social recognition of large parts of pop culture.

In the United States, the distinction between high brow (literally: "high eyebrow", going back to the pseudoscience phrenology ) - low brow is common. This avoids a content evaluation and instead characterizes the attitude that one takes with high or popular culture.

The use of high-cultural offerings such as theater, operas, concerts and museums varies even today between social classes. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu focuses his research on cultural differences (see cultural capital ) with many levels as factors of individual and social power and maintenance of power.


See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rainer Geißler: Facets of the modern social structure. Federal Agency for Civic Education, December 16, 2014, accessed on June 8, 2016 .