To Nusi


Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism in Late Modernity


Copyright © Motti Regev 2013
The right of Motti Regev to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published in 2013 by Polity Press
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1    Theories and Concepts
Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism: A Theoretical Framework
Characterizing Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism
Theoretical Framework
Rock, Pop, and Popular Music
Structure of the Book
Methodological Note
2    Expressive Isomorphism
Pop-Rock Styles and Genres
Pop-Rock Divas
Rock Auteurs
Progressive Rock
Punk and Metal
Electronic Dance Music
Ethnic Rock/New Folk
Dominance of the Musical Public Sphere
Legitimation Discourse
Ritual Classification: Tradition vs. Pop-Rock
Ritual Periodization: The “Birth of Rock”
3    A Field of Cultural Production
Working of the Field
Production of Meaning
Pop-Rock’s Ideology of Art
Mechanisms of Change and Innovation
The Spiral of Expansion
Structure of the Field
National (Sub-)Fields of Pop-Rock Music
4    Long-Term Event of Pop-Rockization
The Musical Event
The Historical Musical Event of Pop-Rock
Early “Pre-History”
Consecrated Beginning
Consolidation and Rise to Dominance
Diversification, Internationalization, Glorification
5    Aesthetic Cultures
Subcultural Scenes to Aesthetic Cultures
Aesthetic Cultures
Forms of Pop-Rock Knowledge
Early Participation
Global Microstructure
Internet Platforms
The Pop-Rock Intelligentsia
Indie/Alternative Pop-Rock
Alternative Pop-Rock on the Web
An Extended Case: Israeli Cognoscenti
6    Sonic Vocabularies, Spaces, and Bodies
Sonic Vocabularies
Tones and Timbres
Museme Stacks and Strings
Global Electro-Amplified Soundscapes
Aesthetic Cosmopolitan Bodies
Actants of Intercultural Phenomenological Proximity


This book grew out of my long time involvement with the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), a unique academic organization, where I have encountered generations of researchers, listened to and read numerous papers that introduced me to the wealth of national styles and genres of pop-rock music, beyond the Anglo-American axis. Therefore, my thanks go, in the first place, to the individuals – too many to list here by name – who founded IASPM and who kept it going for three decades (as these lines are being written), as well as to all the researchers whose presentations in IASPM conferences ignited my interest and curiosity, and provided the initial knowledge that allowed me to engage in this work.

Numerous individuals have contributed – either in passing or upon my request – tips, ideas, insightful comments and advice, pieces of knowledge and bits of data, as well as hints and inspiration that in intricate and nuanced ways had an effect on the final text. Amongst them, Pertti Alasuutari, Julio Arce, Sarah Baker, Jeroen de Kloet, Fernán del Val, Tia DeNora, Paul DiMaggio, Christine Feldman, Hector Fouce, Dafna Hirsch, Franco Minganti, Richard Peterson, Rosa Reitsamer, Zeev Rosenhek, Roger Martinez Sanmarti, Hyunjoon Shin, Marco Solaroli, Pinhas Stern and Ian Woodward deserve special mention. My thanks to each of the above and to many others to whom I apologize for not mentioning them here.

Many thanks also to my home institution, The Open University of Israel, for being a great academic habitat.

I am greatly indebted to the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bologna and to the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research at Griffith University (Queensland), whose hospitality and facilities provided the perfect setting for writing substantial parts of this book. Thanks so much to my respective hosts there, Marco Santoro and Andy Bennett, for extending the invitations, keeping great personal and professional company, and providing valuable feedback. Thanks also to Tim Dowd, John Street, and other reviewers, for their comments and endorsement, as well as to Jennifer Jahn, John Thompson, India Darsley, Ian Tuttle and others at Polity for trusting this book and handling it so efficiently.

Work on this book has benefited enormously from conversations and discussion with Natan Sznaider, who embarked me on the cosmopolitan wagon and whose invaluable friendship and collegiality I highly cherish. Similar gratitude goes to Ronen Shamir, for his support and inspiring sociological insights. A special personal gratitude is due to Vered Silber-Varod, for her close friendship and companionship. Finally and primarily, I am deeply grateful to my partner-in-life Irit, and to our daughters Ronny and Noa, for being a never-ending source of vitality and warmth.

Parts of this book have been adapted and reworked from the following previously published articles, for which kind permission has been granted by the publishers:

•  “Cultural Uniqueness and Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism,” European Journal of Social Theory 10(1): 123–38, Copyright © 2007 Sage Publications.
•  “Ethno-National Pop-Rock Music: Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism Made from within,” Cultural Sociology 1(3): 317–41, Copyright © 2007 BSA Publications Ltd® and Sage Publications.
•  “Pop-Rock Music as Expressive Isomorphism: Blurring the National, the Exotic and the Cosmopolitan in Popular Music,” American Behavioral Scientist 55(5): 558–73, Copyright © 2011 Sage Publications.



Miyuki Nakajima is a female singer-songwriter from Japan, who has enjoyed a successful and influential career since the 1970s. In 1979 she wrote and recorded the soft sentimental ballad “Ruju” (“Rouge”). In this song, about 90 seconds into the recording, an instrumental bridge (between verses) opens with a delicate electric guitar solo that soon soars to a dramatic height, to be joined by a full string orchestra before the vocals return. In 1992, the Hong Kong-based, Chinese female singer Faye Wong recorded her version of the song in Cantonese, for her album Coming Home. This version, called “Fragile Woman” (“Jung Ji Sau Soeng Dik Neoi Yan”), slightly dramatizes the string arrangement, but nevertheless retains the electric guitar part in the instrumental bridge. According to conventional narrative, the recording of “Fragile Woman” was the turning point in Faye Wong’s career. Following its enormous success in Hong Kong (and later in mainland China and other countries), and with subsequent albums and performances, she became during the 1990s and into the new century, “the reigning diva of Chinese popular music” (Fung and Curtin 2002), and especially of Cantopop, the soft-sounding pop style associated with Hong Kong. Indeed, while unequivocally labeled “pop” singers by journalistic and academic discourse, this song, and many others by Faye Wong or Miyuki Nakajima, exemplifies the blurred line between “pop” and “rock.” The soaring guitar solo is an emblematic sonic unit that symbolically represents the rock ballad, a song pattern that crystallized in the 1970s as a way to expose the supposedly softer side of hard rock bands. As much as they are sometimes perceived by fans and critics to be opposite categories, “pop” and “rock” are obviously linked together in their sonic textures and in their cultural histories. They form one musical and cultural category that can best be called pop-rock music.

Traveling from Anglo-American hard rock bands to East Asia (and to other parts of the world) and then between female pop singers in the region, the soaring electric guitar solo is but one element among plenty that epitomizes the multidirectional traffic of pop-rock music idioms across the globe, that is, not only from the UK and US to other parts of the world, but also between other countries and regions. Moreover, Faye Wong’s career and stature as a pop musician that represents, not just for her devoted fans, a certain sense of Hong-Kongian or Chinese contemporary identity, a late modern sense of national cultural uniqueness, also epitomizes the widespread position achieved by pop-rock music in many countries. In contrast to its early perception as a major manifestation of cultural imperialism or Americanization, pop-rock styles and genres have gained by the turn of the century extensive legitimacy, both as a form of musical art and as a genuine expression of contemporary indigenous, national, or ethnic culture. This happened partially because of pop-rock’s fusions with, and integration of, folklore and traditional elements. Consider, for example, this quote, by a notable Argentinean music critic and cultural commentator, who refers to stylistic developments in Argentinean rock of the 1990s:

Argentinean rock, where in the 1970s you’d be thrown away from stage by sticks and stones for playing the charanguito [a small guitar-like indigenous instrument, made from the shell of the back of an armadillo], begins to integrate in a natural manner Latin American rhythms, Jamaican rhythms like reggae, and also [Argentinean] folklore and tango. There starts to be a type of rock that has no shame to incorporate other genres, and for me this is richness. It is a new entity. (Alfredo Rosso, in program 8 of the documentary series Quizas Porque: Historia del Rock Nacional [Maybe Because: History of National Rock], first broadcast in Argentina in November–December 2009)

Adds veteran folk-rocker León Gieco, in that same program:

In the 2000s decade a certain fusion occurred between tango, folklore and rock. The folklore bands incorporated drum kits into their chacareras [an indigenous dance rhythm], and the rockers started to identify with folklore and inserted folklore elements.

With pop-rock evolving to become this “new entity,” as Rosso calls it, Argentinean pop-rock has joined folklore and tango as a legitimate expression of Argentinidad (Argentineaness) in music, a stature it had firmly consolidated among its fans many years earlier, in the 1970s.

Argentinean rock and Cantopop are two cases that exemplify how the very sounds and aesthetic idiom of pop-rock music, as well as its cultural position and meanings within national or regional societies, embody a major process that has been taking place in late modern world culture. It is a process of intensified aesthetic proximity, overlap, and connectivity between nations and ethnicities or, at the very least, between prominent large sectors within them. It is a process in which the expressive forms and cultural practices used by nations at large, and by groupings within them, to signify and perform their sense of uniqueness, growingly comes to share large proportions of aesthetic common ground, to a point where the cultural uniqueness of each nation or ethnicity cannot but be understood as a unit within one complex entity, one variant in a set of quite similar – although never identical – cases. Aesthetic cosmopolitanization is a term that is best suited to depict this process in world culture. That is, as can be inferred from Beck (2006), the term cosmopolitanism refers, literally, to an already existing world polity, while the term cosmopolitanization refers to the gradual formation of such polity. Following this, aesthetic cosmopolitanization refers to the ongoing formation, in late modernity, of world culture as one complexly interconnected entity, in which social groupings of all types around the globe growingly share wide common grounds in their aesthetic perceptions, expressive forms, and cultural practices. Aesthetic cosmopolitanism refers, then, to the already existing singular world culture, the state of affairs reached following the above.

A sociological theorization of aesthetic cosmopolitanism that involves forays into certain streams of current sociological theory may serve, therefore, as a highly adequate tool for explaining the emergence, legitimation, and consolidation of world pop-rock music and its global thriving; and world pop-rock may serve as a perfect empirical case through which aesthetic cosmopolitanism can be characterized, elucidated, and explicated. Put differently, this book seeks to offer a certain marriage between some currents in contemporary sociological theory and pop-rock music. While it may not add up to a tight coherent theoretical whole, the book offers a set of interconnected theoretical approaches, each framing a different facet of pop-rock music as a world cultural phenomenon. Three questions underlie this study of world pop-rock music and Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism: why did pop-rock emerge to become such a prominent cultural form on a world scale?, how did pop-rock music achieve its status and legitimacy?, and what are the cultural consequences of this achievement?

More than its mere reflection, pop-rock music is portrayed in this book as a resource in the formation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism, in the re-figuration of world culture. Being primarily a complex web of meaningful sonorities, a set of “things” that have sonic-physical presence in the world, pop-rock styles and genres become objects of interactions, building blocks that afford individual and collective actors the arrangement and construction of life-worlds, of ways of being in the world. Being a prominent force in the very formation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism is derived from the status of pop-rock music as a signifier of a universal modernity in the field of popular music. That is, as a signifier of universal modernity, pop-rock music became a world model for making contemporary popular music, and thus geared musicians and audiences around the world into active interactions with its sounds and meanings. These interactions led to emergence and consolidation of national, ethnic, and local styles of pop-rock music, and thus to the growing connectivity, proximity, and overlap between popular music cultures around the world.

This opening chapter discusses some preliminary issues and especially the key concepts of “aesthetic cosmopolitanism” and “pop-rock.” It sets the conceptual and theoretical framework for the chapters to come. The following section of this chapter offers a general explanatory framework, informed by sociological theory, to cultural globalization and aesthetic cosmopolitanism. The second part of the chapter delineates in some detail what exactly is meant by the term “pop-rock music,” especially its particularity with respect to the almost identical, but more general notion of “popular music.”

Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism: A Theoretical Framework

In her study of music videos by female pop singers in Mali, and the meanings attributed to these videos by (mostly) female spectators, Schultz (2001) notes the typical structure of these pop songs:

Whereas the song’s melody and rhythm are reminiscent of conventional Malian musical aesthetics, it is played with a combination of Malian and Western rock music instruments. The original melody and rhythm of the folk song are preserved and played by the Malian twenty-one-string instrument the kora, electrically reinforced drums (djembe), electric guitars (played like a kora), and a saxophone. (Schultz 2001: 358–9)

Based on her observations of routine spectatorship, she asserts that “as cultural bricoleurs,” the Malian female pop singers “combine ‘Malian’ morality and aesthetics with cosmopolitan life orientation” (Schultz 2001: 366). In this way:

The pop singers’ success shows that the increasing international flows of commodities and media images, rather than supporting the dislocation of identities, create new meanings and moral orientations for consumers … [It] enables Malians to claim membership of a consumer community that extends beyond the borders of the local yet is firmly rooted in an “authentic” Malian moral universe. (Schultz 2001: 367)

One of the videos analyzed in this study is of the song “Bi furu,” by Oumou Sangaré, a song that “has been one of the most popular hits since it was first broadcast in 1992” (Schultz 2001: 363). Oumou Sangaré, it should be noted, has enjoyed success since the early 1990s all over Africa and in the West. In 2009, a BBC music review referred to her new album, Seya, as “the best thing since her marvellous 1991 debut Moussoulou” (Jon Lusk, February 23, 2009,, accessed June 23, 2011), while the influential music historian and journalist Charlie Gillett has called Seya “a masterpiece” (The Observer, February 15, 2009).

This brief glimpse at Malian pop illustrates the mechanism of cultural globalization as reflected through the prism of pop-rock music. Cultural globalization, the worldwide dissemination of products, artifacts, and activities determined by creative work and carrying symbolic meanings (see Krätke 2003) can be envisaged as a three-way circuit. In it, cultural materials that originate in the West flow into non-Western countries, where they are perceived as models of modernity. Eager to take part in modern culture, yet reluctant to fully embrace the Western variant of modernity, artists and consumers alike in these other countries selectively adapt elements and components from these materials and merge them with indigenous traditional materials. This allows them to preserve a sense of local uniqueness, while at the same time to feel participants in recent developments of modern culture. In addition, some of the cultural products created in this way in non-Western countries flow to metropolitan countries, to be hailed as genuine, albeit “exotic,” expressions of contemporary culture, and sometimes to exert some influence and inspiration on Western artists. All in all, the workings of this circuit usher world culture to a condition in which its different sub units, as much as they maintain uniqueness and distinction, display greater connectivity, overlap, and proximity than ever before or, in short, to a condition of aesthetic cosmopolitanism.

Characterizing Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism

At its core, then, the circuit of cultural globalization that produces aesthetic cosmopolitanism consists of quests for recognition, for a sense of parity, for participation and membership in what collective and individual actors around the world believe to be the innovative frontiers of creativity and artistic expression in modern culture. On the one hand, new types and patterns of expression in all forms of art and culture, implicitly or explicitly presented as models to be followed in order not to lag behind “the new and exciting” in modern culture, are constantly disseminated by leading forces in different art worlds through the global media, the cultural industries, and, to some extent, the education system. On the other hand, collective and individual actors at various national and local levels, believing in the value and meaning of these models, develop interests to become recognized participants in these frontiers, and seek to contribute their own variants of these types and patterns of expression to the global circulation.

When portrayed in this way, the theorization of cultural globalization engulfs both the notion of power that metropolitan centers of cultural production (most notably in the West) exert on peripheral ones, and the notion of multidirectional flow, including counter-hegemonic ones. Indeed, as Crane (2008) notes, theoretical approaches to cultural globalization have been characterized by a certain movement, a development from the cluster of approaches underlined by the idea of cultural/media imperialism, to approaches that stress transnational, multidirectional flows of cultural products and meanings, and the emergence of global communities and cultural networks. The cultural imperialism approach, associated with terms such as McDonaldization, Americanization, McDisneyzation and Coca-Colonization (Ritzer 1993; Ritzer and Liska 1997; Ritzer and Stillman 2003; Wagnleitner 1994), is essentially a thesis about domination “of America over Europe, of ‘the West over the rest’ of the world, of the core over the periphery, of the modern world over the fast-disappearing traditional one, of capitalism over more or less everything and everyone” (Tomlinson 1999: 80). Domination leads, according to this thesis, to world monoculture, that is, to cultural homogenization.

The other approaches share the thesis that cultural globalization does not eliminate cultural diversity, but rather transforms older notions of cultural variance into new ones. Cultural globalization is not only about flows of products and meanings from the West to other parts of the world, but also from East Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the West, or from Japan to East Asia (Iwabuchi 2002). In addition, the reception, interpretation, and use of cultural products are not identical across the world. People in different countries or social settings tend to decipher and use the same products – television dramas, fast food – in ways that appropriate them to their local culture (Katz and Liebes 1990; Watson 1997). Moreover, actors in art worlds across the globe create their own indigenous variants of modern cultural forms, sometimes presenting them as expressions of resistance to the Western, hegemonic ones. In these works, aesthetic idioms, stylistic elements and genre components from multiple national and ethnic sources are mixed and welded to serve the preferences and interests of local taste cultures and identity formations. Hybridity, creolization, complexity, mixture, fusion, and deterritorialization are key concepts in the approaches that stress multidirectional cultural flows and networks (Appadurai 1990; Garcia Canclini 1995; Hannerz 1992) as well as the glocalization of world culture (Robertson 1995). Taken together, however, all approaches share the understanding that late modern world culture is, in effect, one cultural space. That is, the traditional and modernist perception of world culture as composed of distinct, separate cultural units – be they national, ethnic, local or indigenous – has been replaced by a perception of world culture as one entity composed of numerous sub-units that interact between them in complex ways. All approaches acknowledge that the nature of ethnic, national, local, and indigenous cultural uniqueness has been transformed. The sense of cultural uniqueness shared by any given social entity on earth can no longer stand in real or perceived isolation from that of other entities. Complex forms of connectivity, relations of power, and currents of influence render all frames of cultural uniqueness as sub-units in a single world cultural web. In the words of Beck and Sznaider (2006), a sociological account of world culture must therefore abandon “methodological nationalism” in favor of a “methodological cosmopolitanism.” That is, a methodology that partakes the idea of the world as one place, one society. In the case of culture, methodological cosmopolitanism translates to aesthetic cosmopolitanism as a concept that best reflects the existing global cultural reality of late modernity.

Works by Urry (1995), Szerszynski and Urry (2002, 2006) and Tomlinson (1999), have located aesthetic cosmopolitanism at the individual level, as a “cultural disposition involving an intellectual and aesthetic stance of ‘openness’ towards peoples, places and experiences from different cultures, especially those from different ‘nations’” (Szerszinski and Urry 2002: 468), or as having taste for “the wider shores of cultural experience” (Tomlinson 1999: 202; see also Hannerz 1990). In this usage, aesthetic cosmopolitanism presumes, self-evidently, the existence of ethnic and national cultures as spaces of exclusive expressive content, as symbolic environments to which certain cultural products and art works inherently “belong.” Thus, when individuals, as members of one national or ethnic culture, have a taste for cultural products or art works that unequivocally “belong” to a nation or ethnicity other than their own, they display aesthetic cosmopolitanism. If, on the other hand, individuals have a taste exclusively for cultural products and art works that conventionally “belong” to the ethnic or national entity of which they are members, they do not count as aesthetic cosmopolitans. Based on the modernist perception of world culture as composed of distinct, separate cultural units, this understanding of aesthetic cosmopolitanism does not fully cover the global cultural complexity of late modernity.

In late modernity, the disposition of overt openness toward “other” cultures is not just a matter of individual inclination, but rather a structural facet of national and ethnic cultures in general or, at the very least, of major sectors within them. It is not a whim of curiosity, but an institutionalized constraint. Practically any given national, ethnic, local, and indigenous culture displays openness to forms of expression and aesthetic idioms exterior to its own heritage – especially to those forms and idioms that gain global institutionalized status as the frontiers of creativity in late modernity.

Openness consists not only of straightforward consumption of imported cultural goods. It also includes explicit absorption, the indigenization and domestication, of exogenous stylistic elements, creative practices, techniques of expression, and other components into the production of local, ethnic, and national culture. Consequently, cultural products and art works that signify contemporary national or ethnic uniqueness come to consist of aesthetic elements knowingly borrowed and absorbed from sources exterior to the national culture which they signify. Art forms and stylistic elements deliberately drawn from sources exterior to indigenous traditions come to play significant roles in the representation and performance of national uniqueness, thereby leading national and ethnic cultures into greater connectivity and overlap between them. Aesthetic cosmopolitanism, in other words, takes place not only at the individual level, but mostly at the structural and collective level. The individual level might be viewed, in this regard, as a continuum that stretches from the most advertent and fully conscious aesthetic cosmopolitans – either as cultural producers or as consumers – to the most passive and inadvertent consumers. In late modernity, “everybody is more or less cosmopolitan” (Hebdige 1990: 20).

Central to the emergence and consolidation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism is the institutionalization of certain forms of art, or rather, certain technologies of expression, as signifiers of a universal modernity, as manifestations of the proper way to create and express cultural uniqueness in late modernity. Foremost among these forms are film and television, or rather the art forms based on the technologies of “moving pictures.” Another one is pop-rock music, or rather the musical art form based on sound manipulation by recording machines, electric and electronic instruments, and amplification. The technologies at the heart of these forms render them culturally neutral, as it were. They are hardly ever perceived as “belonging” to a specific national or ethnic heritage. On the other hand, for most national and ethnic cultures in the world, they have been also a sort of exogenous intrusion into local historical continuity. That is, they were hardly ever perceived as inherently stemming from local indigenous tradition. Thus, while these technologies of expression certainly brought into national cultures – when they were first introduced, at the very least – an element of “otherness,” they have still been perceived by various collective and individual actors as a vehicle for modernizing national culture, and not necessarily as an imperial imposition. The worldwide proliferation of the art forms associated with these technologies of expression is a key element in the growing proximity and overlap between national and ethnic cultures, in the consolidation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism.

Theoretical Framework

Sociologically, the consolidation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism as the global cultural condition of late modernity should therefore be analyzed as the combined effect of two dynamics. One consists of the power that emanates from the functioning of certain art forms, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms as signifiers of modernity and contemporariness. The other consists of forces within national societies who work to absorb, implement, indigenize, and legitimize such forms, trends, and idioms into the fabric of contemporary ethnic or national uniqueness. The functioning of certain art forms, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms as signifiers of modernity and contemporariness can be conceptualized by considering them, following Fraser (2001), as manifestations of institutionalized patterns of cultural value, while their effect as such patterns on national cultures is a process best described, in an extension of work by Meyer and others (Meyer 2000; Meyer et al. 1997), as expressive isomorphism. The work done by individual and collective actors in national settings to advance up-to-date variants of national and ethnic cultures according to models set by institutionalized patterns of cultural value – the work of agency – can be understood by applying and extending to the sphere of cultural globalization Bourdieu’s notion of homology between the supply and demand sides of culture (1993a). From a related theoretical angle, and following DiMaggio (1987, 1992), aesthetic cosmopolitanism can be seen as stemming from the revamped classification of art forms, that corresponds to the growing heterogeneity and fragmentation of status groups in late modern national societies, to the “boundary work” carried out by such groups (Lamont and Fournier 1992; Lamont and Molnár 2002), especially those associated with the “new upper middle class” sectors and their pattern of omnivorous cultural consumption (Peterson and Kern 1996). While not amounting to a detailed coherent whole, the short elaboration of all the above that follows is offered as a general guiding framework for an understanding of aesthetic cosmopolitanism, and pop-rock music as part of it, along certain currents of sociological thought.

The quest for status, participation, and parity in modern world culture that lies at the core of aesthetic cosmopolitanism can be seen, then, as deriving from the proliferation of institutionalized patterns of cultural value:

To view recognition as a matter of status is to examine institutionalized patterns of cultural value for their effects on the relative standing of social actors. If and when such patterns constitute actors as peers, capable of participating on a par with one another in social life, then we can speak of reciprocal recognition and status equality. When, in contrast, institutionalized patterns of cultural value constitute some actors as inferior, excluded, wholly other or simply invisible, hence as less than full partners in social interaction, then we should speak of misrecognition and status subordination. (Fraser 2001: 24)

Fraser further argues that in order to gain recognition and status, the institutionalized patterns of cultural value that relegate certain social actors to inferiority should change and be replaced by patterns that constitute these actors as equals. Another possible consequence of her assertion, however, is that social actors who are relegated to inferiority and exclusion by such patterns, and who nevertheless adhere to a belief in these values, will seek to adapt their ways of life, their cultural practices and performances, to the dictates of such patterns. In the realms of art, creativity and cultural consumption, such patterns typically formulate hierarchies of worth and importance. They define which expressive forms, aesthetic idioms and stylistic elements are at any given moment the carriers of creative innovation, of “the new and exciting” in art and culture. These hierarchies relegate to a lower status on the scale of modernity those individuals and collective actors whose tastes hardly consist of works from the creative frontiers, actors whose sense of distinction and uniqueness is based on forms of art and on styles that lag behind recent stylistic trends.

Consequently, individual and collective actors who aspire to participate as equals in what they perceive as the cultural frontiers of modernity, tend to acquire tastes in, and adjust aesthetic sensibilities to, those forms, styles, and idioms hailed by the institutionalized patterns of cultural value. In other words, global institutionalized patterns of cultural value present and dictate to aspiring artists, creative workers, and cultural consumers around the world what are the art forms, the stylistic elements, and the aesthetic idioms that should be adopted in order to count as candidates for recognition, participation, and parity in the innovative frontiers of world culture.

Indeed, closely connected, and in fact directly derived from the global proliferation of institutionalized patterns of cultural value is the worldwide replication of art forms, the emergence and consolidation of certain forms of expression as models to be followed and implemented within national cultures. Adherence to beliefs in the cultural value of certain forms of expression prompts the replication of these forms in many different countries. A useful way to sociologically conceptualize the replication of such models is to extend John Meyer’s theoretical framework about isomorphic processes in world society to the realm of expressive culture, and refer to the process as expressive isomorphism. Expressive isomorphism is, then, the process through which national uniqueness is standardized so that expressive culture of various different nations, or of prominent social sectors within them, comes to consist of similar – although not identical – expressive forms, stylistic elements, and aesthetic idioms. It is the process through which expressive cultural uniqueness is constructed by adopting, adapting, adjusting, incorporating, and legitimating creative technologies, stylistic elements, genres, and forms of art derived from world models. While in the past national cultural uniqueness was organized around the principle of striving toward totally different expressive forms and stylistic elements, with expressive isomorphism it becomes organized around proximity, similitude, and overlap of art forms and stylistic elements between nations.

The notions of institutionalized patterns of cultural value and expressive isomorphism provide, jointly, a useful conceptual framework for a general sociological understanding of the power that emanates from the functioning of certain art forms, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms as signifiers of modernity and contemporariness. They provide a general answer to the question why actors in national cultures engage in production and consumption practices that lead to aesthetic cosmopolitanism. They do not explain, however, how these practices work – what their social logic is. An understanding of the agency of actors in this terrain, of the forces who work to absorb, implement, indigenize, and legitimate the cultural forms that lead to aesthetic cosmopolitanism, should turn to Bourdieu’s analysis of the relationship between cultural production and consumption.

Bourdieu’s understanding of the role of culture might be divided in two: a theory of distinction and cultural capital (Bourdieu 1984), and a theory of the fields of art (Bourdieu 1992, 1993a). The theory of distinction outlines the role of cultural capital in the production and maintenance of inequality, superiority, and prestige. The theory of the cultural field delineates the social dynamic of struggles and changes in fields of cultural production, whereby new forms and styles gain legitimacy and recognition, while the old ones either decline or retain their dominant, consecrated position. Bourdieu points to a certain homology, an unintended correspondence, between the struggles within art fields, that constantly invent and re-invent art genres and styles, and the emergence of class fractions and sub-fractions demanding recognition and legitimacy. That is, he points to the fact that the success of new genres and styles, in legitimizing themselves as respected positions in a given art field, serves the interests of rising class formations to construct their claim for social position, for power, around their self-definition as specific taste cultures and lifestyles. Or as he puts it:

by obeying the logic of the objective competition between mutually exclusive positions within the field [of art], the various categories of producers tend to supply products adjusted to the expectations of the various positions in the field of power, but without any conscious striving for adjustment. (Bourdieu 1993a: 45)

Bourdieu’s own work tends, however, to be limited to older types of class structure and cultural capital, based on traditional high art and its institutions. Except for some hints and occasional remarks, he hardly ever addresses the change in the status, position, and prestige of contemporary cultural forms known as “popular culture” (film, television, popular music). Referring to emerging styles and genres, or, one should speculate here, to new and emergent cultural forms, he does, however, assert that:

Without ever being a direct reflection of them, the internal struggles [in the field of art] depend for their outcome on the correspondence they may have with the external struggles between the classes … When newcomers … bring with them dispositions and prises de position [i.e. genres, styles, cultural forms] which clash with the prevailing norms of production and the expectations of the field, they cannot succeed without the help of external changes. These may be … deep-seated changes in the audience of consumers who, because of their affinity with the new producers, ensure the success of their products. (Bourdieu 1993a: 57–8)

Extending this logic to the case of aesthetic cosmopolitanism, its emergence and consolidation should be envisaged as resulting from the correspondence between cultural producers whose field-specific interests propel them to creative work with art forms, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms that signify modernity and contemporariness; and social groupings who, amid these same forms, tend to define their lifestyles and their sense of distinction around taste preferences for styles and aesthetic idioms that signify a stance of “being with the times.”

On the supply side of culture, then, aesthetic cosmopolitanism stems from the emergence of artists, creative workers, and producers of meaning (critics, journalists, and academics) who develop an explorative interest in new and contemporary forms of art, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms as a way to participate in innovative expressive frontiers. This interest propels them to engage in the production of local variants of such forms, and in waging classificatory struggles for recognition and legitimation of these artistic works and products. These actors are in fact self-mobilized into occupying simultaneous positions in two fields of cultural production: the global field of the art form in question (for example, the field of film or of pop-rock music), and the field of the national culture in which they are situated. Aesthetic cosmopolitanism emerges as the socially produced consequence of the interplay between these two fields.

The working of this interplay, its social mechanism and cultural logic, can be analyzed by considering two elaborations on Bourdieu’s analysis of cultural fields. The first comes from the work of Sewell Jr. (2005), who criticizes Bourdieu’s analysis of habitus because it “cannot explain change as arising from within the operation of structures” (p. 16). He then goes on to argue that the transformation of structures from within is possible thanks to five key characteristics of fields (or social structures), two of which are the multiplicity of structures and the transposibility of schemas. These two imply that individuals, as social agents, are always situated in more than one field, and routinely transpose elements from one field-specific habitus to their actions and practices in a different field. Artists and other cultural producers are no exception: they occupy positions in more than one field, each field with its own specific forms of capital and habitus, with its own hierarchies, structures, and schemas. The intersection of two (or more) fields of cultural production thus becomes a source for innovation and change. The work of agency, of producing cultural change, is performed through the transposition of specific types of habitus from one field to another. Aesthetic sensibilities, criteria of evaluation and creative patterns are some key elements transposed by cultural producers from one field to another, as part of the dynamics of innovation and surpassing of existing patterns that characterize all artistic fields.

A second elaboration comes from the work of Toynbee (2000), who applies a key concept of Bourdieu’s field theory, that of “space of possibles” (or possibilities), to the work of musicians in the field of popular music. Examining Bourdieu’s concept, which defines the creative trajectories available to an artist at a given moment, Toynbee goes on to develop a model he calls “the radius of creativity.” His main point is that, within the given space of possibilities available to an artist in the field, there is always a certain likelihood that some possibilities will be preferred over others. This likelihood is a function of the artist’s own dispositions, the position she or he occupies in the field, and the readily available creative means, as offered by the actual institutions within which the artist works. It is this likelihood that ultimately defines which creative possibility will be adopted, including stylistic innovation.

In the very act of becoming artists who work in contemporary forms of art, then, individuals in any country are self-mobilized into membership and actorhood in the global fields of these art forms. Such artists and other producers of culture find themselves in the intersection of two fields and with an expanded radius of creativity. The space of creative possibilities opened to them consists of both the general, global genres and stylistic trends of the art form in question, and the ethno-national heritage of which they are successors. This means, in practice, transposing schemas from the global fields to the national field and vice versa. The term “hybridization” is often used to describe the creative practices employed by cultural producers of the type just described, and it certainly depicts the nature of their techniques of creativity. In light of the above, however, it should be stressed that hybridization is not an arbitrary or whimsical creative practice, but rather an artistic practice structured by the social embeddedness of artists in the intersections of their respective global fields of cultural production with fields of national culture.

On the demand side of culture, the emergence and consolidation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism is closely associated with the rise and expansion of middle- and upper-middle-class fractions, especially groupings whose sense of lifestyle, of generational identity, of national or ethnic belonging – in short, their sense of distinction – becomes highly dependent on the cultural consumption of contemporary forms of art, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms. These are groupings who develop tastes for “the new and innovative” as a way of defining their sense of distinction along contemporariness and modernity, and thus also interests in having national variants of contemporary art forms, stylistic trends, and aesthetic idioms. They seek to have “their own” national or ethnic manifestations of those expressive forms that signify contemporariness and modernity. These groups have been labeled “the new middle classes” (Lash 1990) and “the new cultural intermediaries” (Featherstone 1991). In their consumption practices, these groups aim to shift their national cultures away from essentialist purism, towards openness, engagement with the expressive frontiers of world culture and diversity. Indeed, as some research has demonstrated, the aesthetic cosmopolitan aim goes hand in hand with the development of omnivorous tastes within and across cultural forms. As Kendall et al. (2009) assert, “cosmopolitan omnivorousness becomes a symbol of social status and moral worth” (p. 145). Thus, following work on omnivorous cultural consumption (Peterson and Kern 1996), and coupling it to Bourdieu’s concepts, Coulangeon (2003) refers to this type of omnivorousness as “enlightened eclecticism,” while Ollivier (2008) calls it “humanist openness” and elsewhere argues that conspicuous openness to cultural diversity has become a major ingredient in the behavior of the upper-middle classes, a way of demonstrating and performing distinction (Ollivier 2004).

Taken together, then, the work by artists and cultural producers in which exogenous and indigenous cultural elements interweave to modernize local and national cultures caters, not necessarily in an intentional or planned way, to the status and distinction interests of cosmopolitan omnivores, mostly of the so-called “new upper-middle classes.” Jointly, these types of producers and consumers become the agents of aesthetic cosmopolitanism in national societies. In other words, and extending work by DiMaggio (1987) and Lamont and Molnár (2002), national adaptations and adjustments of globally circulating, supposedly neutral, contemporary forms of art that bring about changes in national systems of art, should be understood as corresponding to the emergence of new status groups, new collective actors, and the boundary work conducted by them within their national settings and amid parallel groups in other countries.

Finally, as hinted above, these actors may also be referred to as advertent aesthetic cosmopolitans, especially when juxtaposed to the more passive, inadvertent type of aesthetic cosmopolitanism, in which the mixing of local or traditional expressive forms and elements with stylistic trends, cultural products, and expressive technologies associated with transnational cultural industries is performed through routine cultural consumption and production. Inadvertent aesthetic cosmopolitanism can be also referred to, following Billig (1995), as banal aesthetic cosmopolitanism, or as ordinary (Lamont and Aksartova 2002). Unlike the consciously minded advertent aesthetic cosmopolitans, inadvertent cosmopolitans do not intentionally engage in nurturing their cosmopolitanism. They become banal, ordinary, and mundane cosmopolitans simply by consuming typical, ubiquitous products of the cultural industries.

Not necessarily a dichotomy, these two types of aesthetic cosmopolitanism stand rather as the poles of a continuum that stretches from the most active agency of aesthetic cosmopolitanism to its most passive. This point is best exemplified by the case of pop-rock music. Enthusiastic fans of pop-rock genres, ardent followers of new and recent stylistic trends, experts who discuss and spread pop-rock knowledge, and musicians who work creatively in pop-rock genres within their own national settings, are jointly the almost ideal type of advertent aesthetic cosmopolitanism in any given national society. At the other end of the continuum stand passive listeners, whose routine exposure to the sounds of pop-rock music because of its ubiquity, its omnipresence in shops, soundtracks, or radio broadcasting, inadvertently dips them in aesthetic cosmopolitanism. Being a manifestation of aesthetic cosmopolitanism is exactly what sets pop-rock music apart from other forms of popular music. But this difference, as well as the hyphened form “pop-rock” that are preferred here over just “rock” or “pop,” should be clarified and elucidated.

Rock, Pop, and Popular Music