The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value Review

The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value
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The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value ReviewThis book is a great work in cultural sociology and addresses one of the key questions of the field, how different works and authors are consecrated and furthermore what consecration means. In addition to a very thorough discussion of the mechanics of awards (including the widely underestimated labor that goes into judging them) and his history of cultural awards -- from their 18th and 19th century academie precursors, through the Nobels, and into the 1970s explosion of televised awards spectacles -- English hammers away at the connection between awards and the romantic ideology of artistic charisma and argues convincingly that awards reinforce this ideology through providing an antagonist for awards bashers and awards refusers. In addition to all that, it's entertaining (for an academic book) as when, for instance he shows how the various greater and lesser awards for pornography precisely ape and parallel the greater and lesser awards for legitimate film.
There is a fair amount of theory in the book, but it's not the sort of nihilistic and excessively abstract theory we've come to associate with the humanities since the 1980s. This may still be distracting to lay readers who simply want to read about how awards work, but as an academic (whose biases tend towards empiricism) I found that it not only helped draw connections between awards and broader social trends but the theory is beautifully exposited and much more accessible than in many of the works English is drawing upon. For instance, if you contrast this book with Bourdieu's (excellent but moderately dense) The Field of Cultural Production, you'll appreciate that English is actually making these ideas about as clear and accessible as is possible. Seen in this light the book not only describes and theoretically situates awards, but parts of it could serve as a solid introduction to theories like new class, post-industrial society, or cultural capital.
Also of possible interest is that similar themes are addressed in Hollywood Highbrow: From Entertainment to Art (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology)The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value Overview

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