American Sociological Association

The High of Cultural Experience: Toward a Microsociology of Cultural Consumption

Does the experience of cultural consumption have its own sui generis attraction and value in itself, or is it an index of external social ranking? Four criteria are proposed that are observable in microsociological detail: (1) bodily self-absorption in the cultural experience, creating an intense internal interaction ritual; (2) collective effervescence among the audience; (3) Goffmanian front-stage self-presentation in settings of cultural consumption; and (4) verbal discourse during and around the cultural experience. Data from highly committed opera fanatics in Buenos Aires are used to document the extreme pole of cultural consumption that rejects external social hierarchies in favor of pure musical experience. This individualized and internal style of music consumption resembles religious mysticism, and what Weber in his typology of orientations to religious experience called virtuoso religiosity, as distinct from typical social class orientations to religion and to music.


Claudio Benzecry and Randall Collins





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