Warde, A. & Gayo-Cal, M. (2009) ‘The anatomy of cultural omnivorousness; the case of Britain’, Poetics, 37(2), pp. 119-145.


The cultural omnivore debate is central to the understanding of contemporary cultural inequality. This paper offers some new evidence about Britain, some methodological clarification regarding the consequences of using different measures of omnivorousness and some considerations about its role in cultural reproduction. High quality data from a survey of the UK in 2003–2004 provide relevant evidence about participation and taste across several cultural domains. We identify omnivorousness in terms of both volume and composition of preferences. Socio-demographic factors affecting omnivore volume are broadly similar, but not identical, to those reported for other countries. Concerning the composition of preferences, and conscious of the controversies about the dissolution of cultural hierarchy, we apply a new procedure for a tripartite classification of tastes and practices as legitimate, common and unauthorised. Bundles of preferences are examined. We conclude that there is a section of the population whose preferences span the categories of the legitimate, the common and the unauthorised, but that the most omnivorous portion of the population, and also the highest social class, disproportionately embrace legitimate items, suggesting that an omnivorous orientation is a mark of cultural capital.

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