In Chapter 1 of this volume, we have outlined three widely discussed arguments concerning the social stratification of cultural consumption: that is, what we have labelled as the ‘homology’, the ‘individualisation’ and the ‘omnivore–univore’ arguments. In our own previous work (Chan and Goldthorpe, 2005, 2007d, e) we have examined the validity of these arguments in the light of analyses of cultural consumption in England in three different domains: that is, in music, in theatre, dance and cinema, and in the visual arts. Through this work we have sought to make some advance on previous research in two main ways.
First, we have recognised that insofar as the focus of interest is on cultural consumption, then this must be studied as directly as possible, and that patterns of consumption cannot be reliably inferred from data that amount to no more than individuals' expressions of their cultural tastes and preferences. Reliance on the latter may well give an exaggerated or distorted idea of the extent of consumption (cf. Chan and Goldthorpe, 2007b). We have based our own analyses on data from the Arts in England Survey, carried out in 2001 (for further details see Skelton et al., 2002), which involved face-to-face interviews with a national sample of persons aged 16 and over, and which aimed to assess the extent of their attendance at cultural events and their participation in cultural activities, very broadly understood. The degree to which activities within particular domains are differentiated in this survey is often not as great as we would wish but this is more than compensated for by its comprehensive coverage and by the range of socio-demographic information that was also collected.
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