Understanding Cultural Omnivorousness: Or the Myth of the Cultural Omnivore

Warde, A; Wright, D and Gayo-Cal, M (2007). Understanding Cultural Omnivorousness: Or the Myth of the Cultural Omnivore. Cultural Sociology, 1(2) pp. 143–164.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975507078185


The concept of omnivorousness has become influential in the sociologies of culture and consumption, cited variously as evidence of altered hierarchies in cultural participation and as indicative of broader socio-cultural changes. The 'omnivore thesis' contends that there is a sector of the population of western countries who do and like a greater variety of forms of culture than previously, and that this broad engagement reflects emerging values of tolerance and undermines snobbery. This article draws on the findings of a study of cultural participation in the UK to explore the coherence of the omnivore thesis. It uses a survey to identify and isolate omnivores, and then proceeds to explore the meanings of omnivorousness through the analysis of in-depth, qualitative interviews with them. It concludes that, while there is evidence of wide cultural participation within the UK, the figure of the omnivore is less singularly distinctive than some studies have suggested.

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