Social Class and Highbrow Lifestyle – A Cross-national Analysis

Jürgen Gerhards, Silke Hans & Michael Mutz

Berliner Studien zur Soziologie Europas Nr. 24 | Februar 2012 | Download als pdf


Above all, Pierre Bourdieu’s work has argued that there is a homology of social classes on the one hand and cultural consumption on the other. In contrast, theories of individualization posit that social class plays only a minor role in shaping lifestyle in contemporary societies. In this paper, using extensive survey data, we examine a) how much contemporary highbrow lifestyles are structured by class membership, b) the extent to which highbrow consumption varies according to the level of modernization of a society and c) whether the explanatory power of class status in relation to highbrow consumption decreases in more modernized countries. The findings show that highbrow lifestyles are strongly influenced by social class, and that highbrow consumption is more common in more modernized societies. Moreover, the findings confirm the suspicion that the formative power of social class on lifestyle decreases in highly modernized societies, albeit without disappearing completely.