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Popular Culture

Toby Miller

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology of Culture and Media » Sociology of Popular Culture

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The word “popular” denotes “of the people,” “by the people,” and “for the people.” In other words, it is made up of them as subjects , whom it textualizes via drama, sport, and information; workers , who undertake that textualization through performances and recording; and audiences , who receive the ensuing texts. Three discourses determine the direction sociologists have taken towards this topic. A discourse about art sees it elevating people above ordinary life, transcending body, time, and place. Conversely, a discourse about folk-life expects it to settle us into society through the wellsprings of community, as part of daily existence. And a discourse about pop idealizes fun, offering transcendence through joy but doing so by referring to the everyday ( Frith 1991 ). “The popular” circles across these discourses. For its part, the concept of culture derives from tending and developing agriculture. With the emergence of capitalism, culture came both to embody instrumentalism and to abjure it, via the industrialization of farming, on the one hand, and the cultivation of individual taste, on the other ( Benhabib 2002 : 2). Culture has usually been understood in two registers, via the social sciences and the humanities – truth versus beauty. This was a heuristic distinction in the sixteenth century ( Williams 1983 : 38), but it became substantive as time passed. Culture is now ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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