In the literal sense, taste usually refers togustation or an individual´s capability of detecting the flavours of food anddrink (Cambridge English Dictionary, n.d.). Nonetheless, in terms ofsociological study, there is not any consensus on the definition of ´taste´. Onone hand, it is defined as an activity which is related to socio-culturalcontext, rather than as an individual matter ofinternal reflection (Højlund, 2015, p.
1). On the other hand, accordingto Alain de Botton, taste is one´s personal preferences in choosing culturalproducts (Mitchell, 2015). However, it can be said that both of thesedefinitions are related to the concept of aesthetics because the distinctive thoughtsabout what is beautiful and what is ugly always exist in everyone´s mind, henceleading to a particular taste for a specific cultural product.
As a result, thisbrings about a question in regard to the normative criticism on what should becalled good taste and bad taste. To answer the main question aboutwhat is bad taste, I am going to elaborate more on it by starting with aconcrete example of what I believe to be considered as bad taste. Then usingBourdieu´s distinction theory to explain the choice and illustrate how tastesconnect to social stratification, applying McCoy and Scarborough´s (2014)viewing styles, and eventually link the symbolic display of (bad) taste todramaturgical theories of Goffman. Inmodern times, it is hard not to run into some eye-catching and colorful walls whichare mainly painted by the youngsters while walking along the streets all overthe world. Graffiti art, also known as street art, might be appraised as animmensely creative and highly artistic art form by some people; however, tosome, it might just be one kind of kitsch or bad taste. Kitsch is defined as “mechanical”that “operates by formulas” and “demands nothing of its customers excepttheir money — not even their time” (Greenberg, 1939, p. 262).
Returningto the principle of good taste and bad taste, it is inevitable not to mentionImmanuel Kant´s one of the first arguments on theirs definitions. Kant claimsthat they all depend on subjective feelings; therefore, there are no standardsto base on and judge what is to be considered good taste and bad taste(Ginsborg, 2005). By contrast, the French sociologist Bourdieu argues thatthere is indeed distinction in cultural consumption and it is displayed bysocial classes in his distinction theory, which implies argument against Kant´sone (Jenkins, 2014). The distinction theory refers to members of dominant classeswith high culture capital and socio-economic status using their superiorcultural education to reinforce symbolic boundaries between social groups(upper class and lower class) and legitimize their own cultural tastes while perpetuatingtheir aesthetic separation from other cultural forms (or what they condemn aslow art)(McCoy and Scarborough, 2014, p. 43). We can infer that goodtaste in art is only recognized by these elite consumers (or members ofdominant classes) since ´´cultural capital is a currency based on taste´´(Alexander, 2003, p.229).
Moreover, the institutionalization (also known as thereproduction of powerful elites´ knowledge) is a significant factor to considerwhat is high art even though it sometimes excludes good artworks appreciated bynon-elite tastemakers (Alexander, 2003, p. 240); meanwhile, Graffiti art doesnot conform to this standard. Nonetheless,in order to question whether Bourdieu´s study of strict homology can begenererlizable beyond the French context, the omnivore theory was proposed bythe American sociologist Richard Peterson (McCoy and Scarborough, 2014, p.
43). Alexander (2003)illustrates that the hierarchy of tastes is disappearing in contemporarysociety (p. 232). Instead, there is an appearance of omnivorous consumers who arefrom high classes and consume a wide range of art forms (both low art and highart)(Alexander, 2003, p. 232). Besides, they are becoming more and moreomnivorous over time (Peterson and Kern, 1996, p.
900). With this theory, we caninfer that the veering consumption typologies are manifesting among consumersof bad art (like Graffiti).