The terms high culture and popular culture – like their synonyms highbrow and lowbrow culture – imply a hierarchy of cultural forms. A sociological approach to high culture stresses that what qualifies as high culture does not ensue from intrinsic aesthetic superiority. Instead, sociological studies focus on the social origins of the distinction between high culture and popular culture and, in this way, “unmask” high culture by revealing the social processes that attach the claim of superiority to it. Claims of superiority seem at odds with the contemporary emphasis on tolerance for cultural diversity. However, despite trends toward greater tolerance, the category high culture remains of paramount importance to how culture is understood in society.


Daenekindt, S. (2018). High Culture. In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. doi:10.1002/9781405165518.wbeos1214