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Good taste

Parent categories: good - taste

Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing. [Good] taste is the enemy of creativity. - Pablo Picasso [Source: Strength to Love, 1963.]

The best salami for everyone! -- Partista Communista Italiana

The concepts of "good taste" are intricately woven into society's control process and class structure. Aesthetics are not an objective body of laws suspended above us like Plato's supreme "Ideas"; they are rooted in the fundamental mechanics of how to control the population and maintain the status quo.

Our sophisticated, "democratic" Western civilization regulates the population's access to information, as well as its innermost attitudes, through media--particularly film and video. The power to literally create desire, fashion, consumer trends, opinions, aspirations and even one's very identity is expressed through film and video. This force--power through persuasion--reaches deep into the backbrain, rendering more brutal, physical control tactics obsolete. Since the '60s, film has ceased being a popular creative medium. --Vale and Juno, 1985 in Incredibly Strange Films (1986) - V. Vale , Andrea Juno [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Memphis Design Group

Ettore Sottsass conceived Memphis, an eighties phenomena in the field of furniture and object design. Memphis explored a visual language outside of the limiting canons of "good taste," blurring the boundaries between "high" or popular culture and mass-produced "ordinary" consumer goods.

Conspiracy of Good Taste (1993) - Stefan Szczelkun

In search of Bourdieu-esque theories of taste

Conspiracy of Good Taste: William Morris, Cecil Sharp, Clough Williams-Ellis and the Repression of Working Class Culture in the 20th Century (1993) - Stefan Szczelkun [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The main part of the original book and this website, 'The Conspiracy of Good Taste', is an examination of three middle class mediators of taste. William Morris with his influence on design and poetic expression and as a model of a 'political artist'. Cecil Sharp comes next because of his leadership in re-presenting a cleaned up version of working class culture back to the 'masses' through state education. Finally Clough Williams-Ellis who led in the repression of a modern working class vernacular housing and ushered in the wage slave mentality of the mortgage system. These three cover the period from the mid Nineteenth century to the mid twentieth.

In examining these case studies (mostly a critical reading of already published research) I try to look at the roots of classism in the biographies of the three men, and how they enacted the oppression, with as much attention to the mechanics of oppression as I could glean from the sources I had.

There is an introduction in which I recall the key readings, people and places through which I came to realise the significance of culture in class oppression and how it had effected my own life.

Chapter 1 outlines a basic theory of oppression and goes on to give a summary of the history of good taste using Howard Caygil's 'The Art of Judgement' as the main source. Following this is a critique of Pierre Bourdieu's 'Distinction' to bring the story of good taste into the late twentieth century.

Finally the book had a brief section on class identity in Britain, Germany and the USA corresponding to the geographical location of the previous history of taste, with a nod to the contemporary cultural dominance of the USA.

The web version adds short pieces of writing that I made in the wake of the original Working Press edition of 1993. Since the mid Nineties a wave of reaction has set in and there is much less freedom to think, discuss and publish about class oppression in this way. In spite of this Conspiracy of Good Taste seems to hold a place in the 'lineage of Arts debunkers', at least according to Dave Beech (Art Monthly February 2005 / No 283).

A new conclusion that was written for an intended second edition of the book is included. Here I point out that Lord John Reith, whose influence on TV through his leadership of the BBC, would have been a good candidate for a fourth mediator that would have taken the story firmly into my lifetime. But I get the impression that we no longer have a need of heroic mediators any more - the project has been intuitively taken up by the now numerous managers of culture.

Footnote: My key book sources were: E.P.Thompson's 'William Morris: romantic to revolutionary' (1955); Dave Harker's 'Fakesong: the manufacture of British folksong 1700 to the present day' (1985), for Cecil Sharp; Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward's, 'Arcadia for All: the legacy of a makeshift landscape' (1984), for an account of the 'Plotland' self-build that Williams-Ellis opposed; Howard Caygil's 'Art of Judgement' (1989), was m y main source for a history of taste through the writings of German and English philosophers. --http://www.stefan-szczelkun.org.uk/taste/CGT-abstract.html [May 2006]

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