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Riffing off a post by Gregory Benford, Alec Austin writes about taste hierarchies:

The tendency of the French upper classes to (for example) prefer classical music over popular music, Bourdieu argued, was a learned social behavior, and whether deployed consciously or not, the associated taste hierarchy - wherein classical music is deemed 'better' or 'more refined' than tunes favored by the vulgar mob - reinforced class distinctions, separating the world of music-listeners into the cognoscenti and the plebes. (The plebes, of course, had their own taste hierarchy, which while not supported by social institutions like orchestras or opera halls, had both economic consequences and a real presence in society. To claim to subscribe to the upper class's taste hierarchy would be read as "putting on airs".)

One hopes that the relevance of this idea to literature, especially in the SFF vs. Mainstream discussion (as well as the endless SF vs. Fantasy conflict) is immediately clear.

Certainly something I was trying to bear in mind when predicting award nominees. Sherwood Smith hosts further discussion.

Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
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