Politics and pleasure
Inventing popular culture in contemporary France
in Imagining the popular in contemporary French culture
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This chapter deals with the ways in which the French have defined culture politically since nineteenth-century industrialisation produced a mass proletarian consumer base for cultural products. On the one hand, an authentically national high culture that transcended material interests emerged, which, on the other, also led to the degraded, market-driven products of ‘mass’ culture. On the whole, Right and Left were for a long time united in the belief that it is the State's political duty to manage and regulate the cultural field, and thus to elevate majority tastes to appreciate the ‘highest and best’ in the national canon. On the whole, as France becomes an increasingly multicultural and globalised society, the tension between commitment to a national self-image premised on elite cultural values, and the reality of majority cultural practices, remains, albeit in plural and evolving forms.

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