University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Postgraduate Course: Sociology of the Arts (SCIL11035)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryLooking at art sociologically involves questioning conventional understandings of "art" and "the artist". Who has the authority to decide what counts as art, and what social conditions allow for the idea of the "artist" to emerge? The sociology of the arts also entails investigating cultural institutions. How do organisations (such as academies, conservatories, companies, galleries and festivals) become established, and how do they shape artistic innovation? To see the arts from a sociological perspective means examining the relation between the arts and society. How is artistic activity affected or redefined by macro social processes (such as globalisation), and what role can the arts play in micro-level processes that foster social cohesion, identity formation and active citizenship? Through an exploration of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies, this course considers the role of art in the social, and the role of the social in art.

The sociology of the arts has produced landmark studies that are deservedly held up as exemplars of what can be achieved by fully engaging the discipline's critical capacities. This course will introduce students to the major theoretical perspectives and empirical analyses that have defined the sociology of the arts in the past, and it will challenge them to consider how it should develop in the future to comprehend new challenges faced by the arts in the 21st century.

Course description Provisional outline of topics:

1. Introduction: thinking about the arts sociologically
2. Classical theorists on the arts (Simmel, Weber, Marx, Durkheim)
3. The Frankfurt School
4. Bourdieu's field analysis
5. Becker's Art Worlds
6. The Production Perspective
7. The Social Construction of the Artist
8. Artistic careers
9. Cultural work
10. Aesthetic experience: the sociology of taste

Students will be given the opportunity to lead discussion. Depending on enrollments, this will be done individually or in groups.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the dominant theoretical approaches in the sociological study of culture and the arts
  2. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the current issues and debates in the field of cultural sociology and the sociology of the arts
  3. Develop original and creative arguments about the role of the arts in public life, the connection between the arts and forms of power, and the social conditions that affect artistic creativity
  4. Apply critical analysis and evaluation to issues in cultural policy, the restructuring of public funding for the arts, and the emerging social, political and economic developments that are transforming the arts in the 21st century
  5. Develop their ability to communicate complex ideas effectively in verbal and written form
Reading List
Adorno, Theodor W. 1962. Introduction to the Sociology of Music. Translated by E. B. Ashton. New York: Seabury Press.
Becker, Howard. 1982. Art Worlds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Becker, Howard S. "Art As Collective Action." American Sociological Review 39, no. 6 (1974): 767-76.
Benjamin, Walter. 1969. 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.' in Illuminations. New York: Schocken.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Translated by S. Emanuel. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre. (1986) ¿The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods.¿ In Collins, Richard (ed.) Media, Culture and Society: A Critical Reader. London: Sage.
Heinich, Nathalie. 1996. The Glory of Van Gogh. An anthropology of admiration. Trans. Paul Leduc Browne. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 76-96
Hesmondhalgh, David and Sarah Baker. (2011) Creative Labour. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Menger, Pierre-Michel. 2014. The Economics of Creativity: Art and Achievement Under Uncertainty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Learning outcome 1 is related to characteristic 1 (knowledge and understanding)
Learning outcomes 2 and 3 are related to characteristic 2 (applied knowledge, skills and understanding)
Learning outcome 4 is related to characteristic 3 (generic cognitive skills)
Learning outcome 5 is related to characteristic 4 (communication)
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Lisa McCormick
Course secretaryMs Agata Paluba
Tel: (0131 6)50 3772
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information