Cultural Intermediaries


University of Leicester, UK

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs084

Cultural intermediaries perform the work of mediating how goods are perceived by others (end consumers, and other market actors including other cultural intermediaries). Their work – which is often symbolic and immaterial – involves framing particular material products, services, and behaviors as “good” or socially esteemed; thus, cultural intermediaries rely on claims of professional expertise in matters of taste and value relative to specific cultural fields. Research on cultural intermediaries has highlighted such issues as the blurring of work and leisure, the conservatism of “creative” work, the significance of cultural capital and personal disposition for professional credibility, and the material practices involved in the promotion of consumption. The concept is especially useful for foregrounding the agency and everyday practices of market actors, which are often overshadowed by the agency of consumers, and the power of macrostructures and institutions in the study of the production of consumer culture.

The starting point for this area is usually Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1984), in which cultural intermediaries are identified as exemplars of the new petite bourgeoisie in 1970s France. Cultural intermediaries act as needs merchants and taste makers, mediating between the fields of production and consumption by orchestrating ...

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