Becker, H.S. (1984). _Art Worlds_. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Howard Becker, PhD, Sociology from the University of Chicago, wrote on the sociology of art,qualitative methods, the sociology of deviance, visual sociology, even the practice of research and composition theory in social sciences. He was a jazz pianist himself and later returned to this world to write about art as activity and collective action.

Becker held that art world reflect society at large. He proposes that groups of people must work in reference to conventional standards and practice via coordinated activities in order to produce a piece of art. One starts with the final art piece and works backward in order to name all the individuals comprising that art world. Contributing factors and parties: cooperative links, reputation (keeping a good one is key), mobilization of resources, tastemakers, supporters (patrons, aestheticians, impresarios).

The four types/modes of artists are: (1) Integrated professionals, who make up the majority of the art world. They work well within regular conventions and so most others in the art world prefer to work with them. However, integration into the profession doesn’t necessarily equate to respect (e.g. Shepard Fairey). (2) Mavericks are trained in conventions but abandon them for their restrictions. When successful in their rejection of convention, mavericks create new ones (e.g. John Cage), but such stories are the exception, not the rule. (3) Naive artists are “primitive,” with idiosyncratic styles owing to their lack of formal training. They just know how to do things for utilitarian purposes (e.g. Simon Rodia). (4) Folk artists work from community/cultural practices and their products are thought less of as art as they are utilitarian items (e.g. quilts).


Leave a comment

Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Minor Field, Research Fields


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s