This week I will be blogging on Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron's Reproduction in Education, Culture, and Society, which we are studying in my macrosociological theory class.
Bourdieu and Passeron argue that the school imposes uses its cultural authority to impose an orthodoxy of taste.
Other, competing, institutions often have a somewhat different taste. They can try to promote their specific taste as a counter-orthodoxy. They are at a great disadvantage, though, because the school, being the school, has a superior cultural authority to establish the standard body of authorized knowledge, including authorized taste. Every art class picks some art to teach, whether they intend to promote an orthodox style or not.
So, instead, competing cultural institutions often adopt a different strategy. They promote an alternative approach to taste. They promote eclecticism and syncretism, instead of any orthodoxy.
This seems to me a useful idea. I can think of uses beyond the realm of taste as such. I have often noticed that people who promote diversity or multiculturalism often drop that emphasis as soon as they are in power. Instead, they try to make their ideological position obligatory and orthodox for all.
There should be a way to differentiate institutions and people who are genuinely committed to eclecticism, syncretism, diversity, multiculturalism, from those who only strategically adopt those positions when they are out of power.