Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

stikkers, kenneth


ABSTRACT The Aesthetic Agency of Popular Culture: In the Writings of Pierre Bourdieu and Arthur C. Danto Rebecca L. Farinas, Ph.D. Pierre Bourdieu and Arthur C. Danto are significant interlocutors in the areas of aesthetics and popular culture. This study affirmatively answers a question raised by both writers, that popular culture puts forward a strong enough aesthetic to change elitist views of society, which concern people's disrespect for the importance of commonplace and everyday experiences. Bourdieu approaches the problem by applying sociology to aesthetics, and Danto raises the question through a view of aesthetics based on his philosophy of culture, which he begins to cultivate in his late writings. Each approach is important, in that firstly through looking at culture through sociology we can omit highbrow abstractions of some philosophies, and look evidentially at the dynamics of aesthetic agency. Secondly, thinking about culture philosophically, we can reveal how people's feelings and actions make meaningful and ethically valuable aesthetic representations. Comparing the two perspectives, we find two different views of how contemporary societies change for the better through individual and communal aesthetic actions. It is Danto's theory of culture, however, which answers the question of the agency of popular culture fully, because his theory of the third realm of beauty is constituted through communal values, which grow out of people's relationships as they interact through everyday, commonplace experiences. Bourdieu and Danto's writings converge on many points, and we can notice several similarities and one major difference in their philosophies. The main similarities are; that feelings and perceptions change social conditions through ideas and actions, that popular culture is facilitated by people's common relationships with one another, and that people who contribute to a commonplace ethos of mutual respect and openness re-possess popular culture with agency, in contrast to a weak sense of culture that is controlled by abstracted concepts and elitist judgements. Danto's distinction in aesthetics through value making, is especially important because in our contemporary, interconnected, global world popular culture needs to do more than merely create nationalistic standards and static traditions. For Danto, people develop a more creative and fair world through understanding and acting on their commonality of inner beauty. Inner beauty is an aesthetic spirit of virtues made through our reciprocal participation in our cultural representations, and we use this agency to propagate our belief in each other as unique and caring human beings.




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