From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "In matters of taste, more than anywhere else, all determination is negation, and tastes are perhaps first and foremost distastes, disgust provoked by horror or visceral intolerance of the tastes of others … Aesthetic intolerance can be terribly violent. Aversion to different lifestyles is perhaps one of the strongest barriers between the classes…" (Pierre Bourdieu 1984: 56)
Taste in the general sense is the same as preference.
Taste is also a sociological concept in that it is not just personal but subject to social pressures, and a particular taste can be judged "good" or "bad". This theory was first put forward towards the end of the twentieth century and ties in with the theory of aesthetic relativism. Before that, the notion of taste in aesthetics was associated with manners and good habits that are of innate nature, and also referred to one's appreciation for beauty.
Taste is a term (like literature, culture, quality and style) that carries its own value judgment: when one has taste, one has automatically good taste. Thus, the concept of taste is inextricably linked to good taste and bad taste, ergo "high culture" (associated with good taste) and "low culture" (associated with bad taste).
One of the basic missions of Jahsonic.com is to show that there are intimate connections between bad taste and good taste realms, and that quality artefacts can be found in both of them. [Aug 2005]
The modern concept of "taste" is a product of the 16th century Italian style called Mannerism, named at the time for the maniera or "manner" in which a work of art was couched. More specifically, the idea of "taste" as a quality that is independent of the style that is simply its vehicle — though the style might be designated a taste, such as "the Antique taste"— was born in the circle of Pope Julius III and first realized at the Villa Giulia built on the edge of Rome in 1551 - 1555.
To the Enlightenment, "taste" was still a universal character, which could be recognized by what pleased any cultured sensibility. With the shift in perspective that Romanticism brought, it began to be thought that, to the contrary, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and could be individually interpreted, with results that might be of equivalent aesthetic value.
The significance of the term develops with the transition from its purely physical nature to being interpreted as an intellectual quality. It begins to be used in a metaphorical sense to refer to certain degrees of competence in relation to understanding of cultural practices. Taste is also closely related to the concept of discrimination, as being based on certain material experiences it can set distinctions between tasteful and tasteless or having a good taste or a bad taste, thus providing categories for social division and producing cultural hierarchy.
The main critic of this idea is French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose main argument is based on the claim that individual tastes and preferences are socially produced. According to Bourdieu, individual tastes are shaped by certain aspects of social practices and position within society. People aspire towards "higher" cultural forms and produce their identities accordingly – they want to be associated with those who are considered to be more developed intellectually and artistically and therefore tend to consume corresponding cultural products. In this sense the notion of taste is closely linked to consumption and consumerism: the viewer or reader consumes various artistic products and then interprets them by the means of criticism that rests upon the idea of taste.Defining good taste is difficult or impossible for most, and definitions can vary widely. For instance, this exchange between EC Comics editor-in-chief William M. Gaines and Estes Kefauver at US Senate hearings on comic books held by the Senate Subcommittee for Juvenile Delinquincy.
- Kefauver: [holding up a recent copy of EC's Crime SuspenStories] "Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody ax holding woman's head which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?"
- Gaines: "Yes, sir; I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little bit higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody."
- G.K. Chesterton: "Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed."
- See bad taste
Bad taste is generally a title given to any object or idea that does not fall within the normal social standards of the time or area. Varying from society to society and from time to time, bad taste is generally thought of as a negative thing, but also changes with each individual.