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Cultural Distinction and Material Consumption : the Case of Cars in Contemporary France

Abstract : Chapter 9 This chapter explores class distinction in the consumption and ownership of material goods, relying on French data on car ownership. It challenges a restrictive and misleading reаding of Distinction, according to which the social phenomena described by Bourdieu would only apply to symbolic goods and cultural practices. It also questions the Frankfurt School-inspired understanding of the field of material goods as an emblematic manifestation of a unified and seemingly classless culture. The chapter shows that, car ownership, despite its wide diffusion since the post-war era, remains a significant social status marker in contemporary France. It also demonstrates that class distinctions emerge mainly around vehicles’ physical characteristics (weight and power) and age. But this quantitative class-gradient is not exclusive of more qualitative differences that differentiate vehicles according to their energy efficiency, dangerousness as well as environmental impact, and to a lesser extent brand. And most of these differences not only reflect the volume of capital of car owners but its structure as well.
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Philippe Coulangeon, yoann Demoli, Ivaylo Petev. Cultural Distinction and Material Consumption : the Case of Cars in Contemporary France. The Routledge Companion to Bourdieu's Distinction, Routledge, pp.119 - 131, 2014. ⟨hal-03398003⟩



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