Högt och lågt : Smak och stil i ungdomskulturen

Sammanfattning: The thesis contributes to the understanding of modern youth cultures. The study consists of three parts. The first part explores the development of youth culture research. In the second part a theoretical perspective is developed on taste and style that can be applied to contemporary youth cultures. The key concepts used in this elaboration are stylisation and contextualisation, and the distinction between style markers and style elements. Stylisation is regarded as a prerequisite for the production of style, which puts emphasis on the agency involved in the construction of youth styles. Style markers, i.e. single or combined elements which give an immediate comprehension of the distinctive traits of a style, are fundamental to the social classification and decoding of styles. They also play a decisive role in the recontextualisation of styles. Styles are always drawn into processes of distinction and dialogism. The former of these processes has foremost been elaborated in the cultural sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and the latter in the work of Paul Ricoeur and Mikhail Bakhtin. In the second part of the thesis these approaches are combined into a dialectic of distinction and dialogism. At the same time Bourdieu's notions of symbolic capital, social fields and habitus are scrutinized. In the third part of the thesis the theoretical perspective is oriented towards empirical findings. The aim of the empirical investigations is to analyse whether and to what extent social dimensions are reflected in young people's taste for culture and aesthetics. The data used in the empirical analysis were collected in three Swedish cities, Gothenburg, Gävle and Stockholm, in 1991/92, 1993 and 1994/95 respectively. The methodology used is a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, that makes it possible to analyse young people's cultural and aesthetic orientations from both the perspective of structure and agency. The analysis of the data from Gothenburg and Gävle confirms Bourdieu's notion of the crucial role played by the educational system in the distribution of symbolic capital, and that there are marked differences between male and female tastes. The analysis of the structural differences in the pupils' taste was complemented by an analysis of the sense for the taste-game of culture based on interviews conducted with young people in Stockholm. In an ideal typical manner the interviewed young perople's orientations towards culture and aesthetics were divided into three categories: one which solely preferred non-consecrated forms of culture, another which mainly preferred popular culture, and yet another, with a relatively strong taste for both consecrated and popular culture. The sense for cultural distinctions in the last group was not merely bound to high culture, but also to popular culture. From this the conclusion is reached that the pure aesthetic gaze is not the only gaze involved in cultural distinction. It is further argued that Bourdieu's theory of symbolic capital, fields and habitus ought to be complemented with an analysis of different kinds of social fields and their power of consecration in the understanding of cultural hierarchies. The sense for the taste-game of culture also played a crucial role in young people's orientations to different styles. The sense for style was in many cases intervened with structural reflexivity and self-reflexivity. Finally, an analysis of the male and female style gaze was extracted from the gender differences found in the empirical material. The male style gaze is mainly turned towards style, whereas the female style gaze is foremost turned towards stylisation. In this way boys are more inclined than girls to position themselves in relation to the symbolic structures of style.