The Cultural Class Identifications Reproduced Cultural Studies Essay

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In this essay I will discuss the statement of 'How are class identifications reproduced and contested through 'taste', cultural consumption and adornment? In doing so, I will consider the twentieth century class 'relations' by examining the working class influences, and how the impact they had on taste, social life, culture and adornment. The use of consumer goods from the design and arts world, which affect the distinctions of class, status, gender, age and occupation (McCracken pg 72 1986), as a case in point to address the essay question.

By considering the development of ideas of 'class identification', I will argue that it is central to the ideas of cultural meaning that ultimately resides in consumer goods, therefore the identity of cultural values is indeed synonymous with the 'collar line', yet historians have shown that, along with income and occupation, patterns of education, sociability, and style of life have also played a role in class formation and identity. The working class that was subjected to collar debate in the public discourse were referred to as white "blue collar" wage earners and their families hailed from the northern industrial areas as well as European immigrants for whom ethnicity had become a class marker

I will explain that although ideas of 'class identification' existed before the twentieth century and can be traced back to classical antiquity and are therefore not a consequence of modernity itself (Gilroy 1997), ideas about 'class identification' were constructed, explained and rationalised through the 'philosophical truths' and the 'scientific disciplines' which emerged from the ancient times can also be subdivided into smaller classes around occupations.

By examining the construction of pre-colonial history and consequently diasporic cultures in Europe, I will explain how ideas that emerged from the twentieth century to the present were strengthened by the interdisciplinary scientific racism which followed, with anthropology, pre-colonial history, eugenics, racial and social status at the core and were central to, and activated, by the 'West and 'the rest', 'Arabs' and 'Jews' 'natives' and 'immigrants' and others at the back of the 'line' () Bourdieu states that " social status is attained and created by the accumulation and trading of capital; cultural, social, symbolic and economic" (Bourdieu 1994).

I will then further explain how this led to the reproduction of 'class stratification and power', and how the notion of "less is more" an aesthetic simplicity (taste) favoured by the upper middle classes caused a resistance to the mass market as it strengthened the working class identity (Nickles,N, pg 582:584). In doing so, I will aim to show that class distinctions between the social classes with a great deal of power was not, as it is commonly argued, the result of the powerful and the powerless, but the misguided ambition of social and political theories that social classes with greater power ranking above the lower classes owe to the economic structure of work and property; these inequalities are normalised; and the stratification is not based purely on economic inequalities, but on other status and power differentials. Social class pertaining broadly to material wealth may be distinguished from status class based on honour, prestige, religious affiliation, and reproduced through cultural ideology in taste and adornment (Marxist, Mark Webber).

When asked to consider the class identifications, 'taste', cultural consumption and adornment and its intended objectives, many would ask the question of how these perspectives concern the globalisation and neo-colonisation such as "dependency theory". Some would argue that it was a shift in industries being established in developing countries and the increasing demand of the west for cheaper goods and services; no one can deny that human beings have always used their appearance as personal advertising signalling who we are and where we are at. However I would argue that class identification has become more complex and fragmented as our visible differences and similarities interact as an international phenomenon the local, trans local of; class, taste, cultural consumption and adornment representation inform 'music, styles of dress and forms of dance follow multidirectional routes around the world (Brah 1996, Gilroy 1997, McCracken 1986 Back and Ware 2002).

How are class identifications reproduced and contested through 'taste'?

As Bourdieu explains, "Taste, the propensity and capacity to appropriate (materially or symbolically) a given class of classified, classifying objects or practices, is the generative formula of life-style, a unitary set of distinctive preferences which express the same expressive intention in the specific logic of each of the symbolic sub-spaces" ( pg 173,1984). In order to understand this statement and to decipher some of the ideology behind class identification and taste, it is imperative to consider the development of ideas that were during the early twentieth century because as Nickles argues what "shocked and intrigued" designers was the material evidence of working-class women's purchasing power" (2002:581). Post war Europe has often been referred to as the cradle of civilization. It heralded the Enlightenment, during which an elite group of intellectuals or philosophers; in the designers scheme of economic mobility the 'blue collar' workers now had middle class pockets that enabled them to live in suburbia and purchase "mass produced domestic comfort" and participate in the white identity defined by the racially homogenous environment.

The designers of this period were men who, developed and created simpler aesthetic products for the upper-middle class "tastemakers" (Nickles 2002).

The arguments and truths to explain the working class retention for their class values "more is better", lifestyles and tastes, after improving their social conditions is to do with control of their social world, rather than conform to middle class value of simplicity, managerial efficiency, and refinement that took their advice from "professional tastemakers such as designers" (Nickles 2002). This was in turn supported by the emerging scientific 'disciplines' which grew out of the desire to pursue objective, scientific knowledge through experiment and empirical substantiation; "classically, the high standing individuals come from a conventional social elite: the upper classes" (McCraken 1986) . However,

it was these very ideas that, albeit implicitly, made nineteenth century Europe the cradle of modern design and engineering.

One of the main trends of taste initiated by the upper classes was the "preppie look" that has spread to the masses. In their quest to make sense to the world, was the social scientist engagement with "market research" , an attempt 'to determine man's exact place in nature through the observation of class structure and comparisons between groups of men and women's changes to style, value, attitude, (McCraken 1986), despite the secular emphasis of the enlightened, with their pledge of "motivational research" , equality of all men and the use of "motivational research" to expose the class and gender politics within the discourse of culture, which in turn Foley challenged the popular assumption that " mass consumption and household modernization went hand in hand with social assimilation; therefore introducing the very modern idea of classification according to their place in hierarchical order she implied confusion beset the "the middle income with middle class and suburb with middle-class community" The True Story editor's slides made the point that blue-collar consumers had risen on the "economic ladder," as evidenced by the proliferation of household appliances, but not on the "taste ladder" that designers had constructed. (Esther Foley, the home service editor from 1949to 1962; Nickles 2002).

Raymond Loewy shared the view of his critics that the designer should be the "Knight of Good Taste," educating the masses to appreciate the modernist ideals based on simplicity. The term 'taste' had a designated nuance to it, "through the course of generations sustaining the integrity of noble lineages and the social order" (Malik 1996 pg 79 cited in Nickles 2002). However, I would argue that although class and taste identification came into existence centuries ago, nineteenth century ideas of class identification drew upon ideas of 'difference' which were already in circulation. These ideas of 'difference' had been in existence and constantly re-layered since antiquity, Loewy defended "more is better" styling by arguing that "it is a proven fact" that "only a limited segment of sophisticated buyers" accepted "products whose design has been reduced to their simplest expression" while the masses "love chrome . . . indiscriminately (Loewy 1960; cited in Nickles 2002). These were in turn supported by; the changes designers had to make to sell their goods; social change, which was inevitable as the trend in household appliance design signalled the infiltration of working-class values into mainstream culture. A discourse where the class description faded and was replaced with the binary oppositions of the tasteful/vulgar; debate over taste and suburbia; reflected a concern over the growing impact of this new class and gender dynamic in the marketplace. However, key enlightened ideas of ' class identification and taste' were often accompanied by non-scientific judgements which departed from the emphasis on empirical observation, with the standard applied to class identification during the nineteenth century being based on the "social revolution" that gave rise to the "emancipation of the worker"(Whyte 1956 cited in Nickles 2002).

Although, the True Story magazine occasionally included African American stories and letters, the consequently enlightenment thinking on racial classification was varied and ambivalent. Key studies completed for the magazine made explicit the belief that "Negroes and Puerto Ricans" were a different category and therefore excluded from their studies of working-class women and posed differing arguments on the system of class, taste and racial identification (Miller 1964 cited in Nickles 2002). However Cohen makes the point that "racial exclusion meant that the "recruitment" into post-war suburbanisation was also a recruitment into "whiteness" (Cohen 1995 65:66 cited in Nickles 2002).

How are class identifications reproduced and contested through cultural consumption?

Malik argues that "in pre-enlightened usage, the term 'race' had designated a family line, its biological continuity through the course of generations sustaining the integrity of noble lineages and the social order" (1996:79). These ideas were strengthened by Europe's contact with the new world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with the beginning of the 'New World' slavery marking the beginning of the construction of the African American 'Others' (Hall 2005). However, key enlightened ideas of 'race' were often accompanied by non-scientific judgements which departed from the emphasis on empirical observation and centred on classifications of hegemony that were highly subjective.

Consequently, enlightened thinking on cultural classifications was varied; Key philosophers posed differing arguments on the system of cultural classification, such as; Brah, Gilroy, Back and Ware, have argued that "so-called local cultures and communities are inescapably international and trans-local. People and cultural artefacts like music, styles of dress and forms of dance follow multidirectional routes around the world. They have further argued that the expressive cultures of particular collectivises are inseparable from their political cultures" (Brah 1997, Gilroy 1997, Back and Ware 2002). However, McCraken in Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the Structure and Movement of the Cultural Meaning of Consumer Goods argued that " We are encouraged to acknowledge the presence of a large and powerful system at the heart of modern consumer society that gives this society some of its coherence and flexibility even as it serves as a constant source of incoherence and discontinuity " (1986:71). His idea of culture and consumption was intertwined with the idea of "consumption behaviour" in a "consumer society", but this idea carried the enlightenment concept of progress.

Bourdieu, disagreed on a number of issues, especially with the concept of consumption and consumer behaviour but that 'cultural consumptions main opposition' was the classification of man into ranks according to their 'capital value' based on how unique the product was (unique selling point) meant it was culturally and economically valued and seen as superior; whilst other mass produced products were 'socially identified' as inferior, in the eighties (1980's) this concept was applied to the mass produced Japanese (Nissan) cars in comparison to the handmade British (Jaguar) cars (Bourdieu 1984: p176).

Although there are many influential ideas of cultural consumption, some of the most significant can be attributed to the working class women, often referred to as status seeking with a preference for bad taste. Nickles, advocated the theory of working class women preferences not as bearers of bad taste but of "social identity", she said designers "dream of economic mobility" which had been misdirected at the upper middle classes had now been allocated to the working classes through the ethos of mass production in 'mainstream culture'. There were resistances with this cohesion from the designers as they judged the working class to have moved up economically but not culturally, however these debates were held outside the political realm as the taste for working class products triumph as the "democratisation of taste". The ideal type and counter type symbolised a; "new interest in simple routines, rather than acknowledging the social kitchen as a working-class tradition influencing middle-class servant less homes" (Nickles 2002).

Levy's argues that in much of these anthropological arguments, the food types, cultural categories of sex and age were either ignored or considered part of a hegemony and believed to be capable of analysing the assimilation into European life, therefore the use of 'demographic information' used to analyse goods from a 'structuralist point of view' was used to evaluate 'goods modelled on the order of culture' and can be traced back to particular cultural and class identification (Levy's 1981 cited by Grant McCracken pg 73). However, I would clarify here that when Darwin spoke about human behaviour, he was talking about a disposition to justify capitalist exploitation, colonial oppression, racial savagery and genocide. In the twenty first century this form of data collation is used to prejudice culture, because race and culture are inter connected and we are more likely to see images that reinforce white supremacy than celebrate cultural differences.

Bell Hooks states we are more likely to see "images of black people that reinforce and re-inscribe white supremacy". But this was nothing new. Throughout the African diaspora history, the peoples of African origin had lived in conditions of social and cultural inequalities and supremacist patriarchy via the media's negated images and representation; which helped maintain the ways in which black people, black experiences, were positioned and subjected in the dominant regimes of representation. As the cultural critic Walter Benn Michaels puts it, 'In order for a culture to be lost... it must be separable from one's actual behaviour, and in order for it to be separable from one's actual behaviour it must be anchorable in race. ''It's not easy to imagine a person, or people, bereft of culture', observes Kwame Appiah. It's like form: you cannot have it.' Culture, in other words, is like oxygen: no living human can do without it, but no living human does (Hooks 1987, Malik 1996).

How are class identifications reproduced and contested through adornment?

Adornment of the body has been in forms of; jewellery, clothing, make up and much more, these are the main areas I will focus on as the context is very broad.

Modernity was to bring something new; toward the turn of the twentieth century as a consequence of the enlightenment and the independence of colonies. The end of the world wars transformed women's working rights, many walls were being broken down and mass production goods entered the social spaces of the class system. In these modern times, the distinctiveness of the working woman was no longer a major issue, but the practices of men holding the purse strings still prevailed. However, women were still the dictators of style and the consumers "whether she has a job outside the home or not, the wage earner wife decides most family purchases or investments". But now that women had entered into the purchasing market, prejudices were rising up against them as they became assimilated into the capitalist market. A dichotomy of gendered separation emerged as women were constructed as being ornamental consumers and men as functional providers ( Nickles, : 2002).

The working class women had now emerged in the cultural structure of social development and were buying goods that were once classified as predominately upper middle class artefacts; their economic and educational attainment enabled the mobility of social influence and prestige. The social distinctions between the classes consumer culture were slowly merging, additionally with the "more is better" being classified as the taste of the new average consumer, the differences between the classes were deemed to be dismantling.

Although the differences in class seemed to be diminishing other factors were prominent in the trends and expectations of the working class women in terms of clothing as well as the racial undertones affronting the women of colour. Hansen (2004) states in her abstract that the "clothing research attracted renewed interest in anthropology", this term was meant to suggest that it was not the clothing, but also some aspects of the body "as both subjects in, and object, of dress practice", thus expressing our bodies are 'subjects' of clothing and some aspects of the clothing characterise a physical entity of; us inside clothes and also us as objects like mannequins that parade a dress code that express the modernity of dress and how it revolves and transforms the identity of others This mode of thinking was to be based on the intellectual and theories of colonisation, modernity, globalisation and the dress issues in the diaspora which were instrumental in the development of the overarching ideology of the 'trivialising of consumers' especially women's interest in clothing (Hansen 2004:369).

One of the key elements of the fashion industry was the devaluing of the cultural theory, although not the only crucial factor in the development of the school of thought, it represented a particular ideology of marginality that lends itself to show cultural 'heritage' issues were of no significance as opposed to the superiority of the western commercial manufactures of the fashion industry. This was facilitated through the globalisation era of hyper-communication where the internet, media and advertising were used to emphasis the other. But "traditional dress was never cultural heritage issue" within anthropology as it was considered to be a process of importance in the world of dress and used to signify the cementation of globalisation. Consequently, the trend of ethnic adornments in different forms has begun to blend into the mainstream and couture designs to represent the outward signs of breaking down conventional fashion boundaries (ibid.: 371).

The racial theorist of Orienlalism did not have to look very far to find a basis for their theories as 'the veil' provided allusions to race and culture (ibid.:382), however, in protest to their Islamic fashion and Muslim identity ; women of all classes have striven to ensure the 'mystery of race' based on the racialised context (France) of the purity of race meant domination of lesser ideas; because intermingling of racial lines would result in a rapid decline of culture and national prowess. The visibility of the veil as a form of Islamic adornment has ensured it continues to be an emblem of identity, despite the Orientalising perspective of female suppression and abject rules (ibid. 382).

The fashion revolution of the nineteenth century introduced the female undergarments. Wilson (1995) states "underwear was worn for the purposes of adornment" (Storr: 2002), in this case underwear was not deemed a necessity -'the distinction between underwear and outerwear reflects the distinction between the public and the private [... and] parallels the late 20th century ambiguity surrounding privacy, intimacy and sexuality'(ibd.:). The use of underwear had no place in body adornment the inability to see a private domain garment as a piece of adornment was unique to some. The practicalities of clothing were highly valued; clothing made a statement of the ones social, cultural and capital. The clothes worn reflected class identity and social structure in terms of what was acceptable and the awareness of clothes aimed at a particular class (Skegg:104).

Fashion as a form of adornment had another side to it that of the erotica, from Ann Summers party plans to dance hall girls. The erotica was nothing new but the mode of dance hall celebration of the erotica challenged the Victorian legacy of the middle class Caribbean people. "These "donnettes" demonstrated their physical and financial "ass-ets" by wearing clothes labeled "batty riders," "Puny printers", wigs of all colors, mesh tops, large jewelry (gold bangles, rings, earrings, nose rings), and elaborate hairdos all became part of the new fashion ensemble" (Frank:2007). However, I would reiterate that the erotica was not a modern phenomenon; it was very much the product of modernity itself. As Frank said, the "hypersexuality" within dancehall it did not mysteriously, avoid a clash with the social norms and institutions of modernity. It was these norms and institutions that man the erotica possible. Without modern civilization and its most central achievements of colonialisation, there would be no racial identity (Frank 2007 : 172). As I aimed to show, the "sexual essentialism upon Africans" is very much a modern phenomenon, it was rationalised through modern ideas of 'race' and 'colonialism's subjugating ideological discourse' that were developed as part of the civilising process and was welcomed by egotistical men trying to reassert themselves, because, they conferred a modern logic of oppression on an original intuition and the age long paradox of female sexual prowess (ibid.:176). The dance hall revolution where the age long repellence of female sexuality was displayed for Frank was presented in its modern, scientific, racist form (ibid.:173), as an exercise of 'control'. I argue, that these women execute a form of control within their arena; they decide who to dance for and go home with. This venue is the personal space they crave for where they can escape the drudgery of the everyday routines the placement of sexuality for black and working class women is always mediated through respectability, were 'sexual properties' are as inseparable from 'class properties', therefore the extreme cases of modern sexuality did not betray the spirit of modernity. They did not depart from the pleasurable feelings in dress, make up or other forms of adornment; instead they infused them with connotations most consistent with the expressions entwined with the public and political world of social class; but the theorist of post modernity have been drawn to the high culture of high-culture domains of mass culture; these are also domains that are not associated with women. However, the theorist of postmodernity cannot fully relegate women out of the capitalist market; because women of all classes and races are the main consumers, "they buy shoes like the ones they have just seen, or they put on makeup to look more like the woman in an advert in a fashion magazine" (Bourdieu, 1984: Goldstein, 1993: Storr, 2002:).

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