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Sociology of Culture and Cultural Practices. The Transformative Power of Institution

Laurent Fleury

Laurent Fleury, Sociology of Culture and Cultural Practices. The Transformative Power of Institution, Lanham, Lexington Books, coll. « New Directions in Culture and Governance », 2014, 178 p.

Sociology of Culture and of Cultural Practices traces the development of the sociology of culture from its origins (Weber and Simmel) and examines the major trends that have emerged in this branch of sociology. It raises issues of cultural hierarchy, of distinction, and of legitimate culture and mass culture, and focuses on new areas of research, including the role of institutions, the reception of works of art, aesthetic experience, and emancipation through art and presents a synthesis of research and debate from France and the United States.

In attempting to understand the work carried out by cultural institutions, Laurent Fleury highlights the power they are capable of exercising : cultural institutions define the spaces in which collective identities, cultural experiences, social practices and ways of relating to art are expressed and crystallized. The power of cultural institutions is often ignored, and the fact that they inform activities, govern practices and encourage individuals to develop a degree of familiarity with culture is unfamiliar to many. Highlighting this instituting process helps to counteract the determinism of certain ideas based on a rigid conception of the habitus and underlines the transformative power of cultural institutions.

The book introduces the political variable into the sociology of culture. Case studies of Vilar’s Théâtre National Populaire (“National Popular Theater”) and the Pompidou Center demonstrate that it is possible to realize the ideal of the democratization of culture, which leads to the conclusion that cultural practices can be politically instituted. In examining the ideal of the democratization of culture, and, especially, the possibility of realizing such an ideal, Fleury describes how cultural inequalities can be overcome and shows how culture can fulfil an emancipatory function.

Laurent Fleury est membre de l’AISLF.


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