Culture as a Vocation: Sociology of career choices in cultural management, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Culture as a Vocation

Sociology of career choices in cultural management, 1st Edition

By Vincent Dubois


146 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2015-11-09
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Vocational occupations are attractive not so much for their material rewards as for the prestige and self-fulfillment they confer. They require a strong personal commitment, which can be subjectively experienced in terms of passion and selflessness. The choice of a career in the cultural sector provides a good example of this. What are the terms of this calling? What predisposes individuals to answer it? What are the meanings of such a choice? To answer these questions, this book focuses on would-be cultural managers. By identifying their social patterns, by revealing the resources, expectations and visions of the world they invest in their choice, it sheds new light on these occupations. In these intermediary and indeterminate social positions, family heritages intersect with educational strategies, aspirations of upward mobility with tactics against downward mobility, and social critique with adjustment strategies. Ultimately the study of career choices in cultural management suggests a new take on the analysis of social reproduction and on the embodiment of the new spirit of capitalism. The empirical findings of this research conducted in France are set in a broader comparative perspective, at the European level and with the USA.


'Every year, thousands of talented young people aspire to careers in the arts. Vincent Dubois's brilliant sociological analysis of French careers in cultural management reveals the challenges - and often disappointments - which lie in their way. This book will be essential reading across the globe for those interested in how career patterns in the cultural sector are changing'. - Pr. Mike Savage, Head of Sociology Department and Chair, London School of Economics

'Many have wondered: what is arts management? Few answers truly satisfy. Vincent Dubois poses a set of fresh questions and manages to answer this and far more in his well-researched, highly readable volume. It should be required reading in our field.' - Pr. Constance DeVereaux, Director, LEAP Institute for the Arts, Colorado State University, USA

'Culture as a Vocation focuses on the social space of cultural managers, who play a crucial role in the contemporary cultural world. Superbly researched in a bourdieusian framework, this book provides an insightful view on this occupational universe. Thanks to the nuanced analysis of this strategic case, he sheds light on the changing social settings of culture in contemporary societies.' - Arturo Rodríguez Morató, Professor of Sociology, University of Barcelona, Spain.

'This persuasive and challenging analysis of changing realities in cultural professions, offers insightful understanding of the aspirations and motivations of professionals engaged in arts and culture. Dubois’s book is a must read for all those involved in education and training of cultural professionals, whether in academia or in centres for lifelong learning.' - Professor Milena Dragicevic Sesic, UNESCO Chair in cultural policy and management, University of Arts, Belgrade

'Serious researches on management in the cultural field are rare and still rarer are conceptually sophisticated ones. With his usual mastery Vincent Dubois manages to match in this unique book the seriousness of a solid empirical study on would-be cultural managers with the imaginative insightfulness of the best social theory to provide a must reference for future research and a valuable reading for aspiring as well as practicing professionals in the culture sector.' - Marco Santoro, Professor of Sociology, Università di Bologna, Italy

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Culture in the Space of Career Choices 1.1. How Cultural Occupations Became Attractive 1.1.1. The Rise of Cultural Employment 1.1.2. Cultural Managers: Professional labels and vocations 1.1.3. An Attractive Sector Despite Poor Employment Conditions 1.1.4. The Attraction of Uncertainty 1.2. Training and the Genesis of Vocations 1.2.1. The Development of Specialized Training Programs in Cultural Management 1.2.2. The Structured of the Specialized Training Supply 1.2.3. The Effects of the Specialization of Training 2. Who Wants to be a Cultural Manager? 2.1. A Largely Feminine Vocation 2.2. Higher Social Backgrounds 2.3. Educated Applicants 2.4. Well-Rounded Applicants 2.5. The Space of Applicants 3. The Meanings of a Career Choice 3.1. Leaving Doors Open 3 1.1. A Genuine Choice 3.1.2. The Narratives of Vocation 3.1.3. Choosing the Cultural Sector Rather Than a Given Occupation 3.2. A Third Way between Art and Teaching 3.2.1. Teaching as a Foil 3.2.2. The Artistic Vocation as a Reference 3.3. The Social Rationales of a Career Choice 3.3.1. Dreams of Social Mobility 3.3.2. Professional Reproduction 3.3.3. A Devalued Cultural Capital and a Reinvested Educational Capital 3.3.4. Self-Assertion 4. Intermediary Dispositions and Adjustment Strategies 4.1. Between Cultural Legitimism and Eclecticism 4.2. Reinvesting the Artist’s Life 4.2.1. Re-Enchanting Work 4.2.2. The New Spirit of Capitalism Embodied 4.2.3. A Different Form of Political Awareness Conclusion

About the Author

Vincent Dubois, sociologist and political scientist, is currently Professor at the Institute for Political Studies in Strasbourg (France). His research fields include cultural sociology and policy, language policy, poverty and welfare. He belongs to the SAGE research unit and to the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study, and is associate member of the Centre for European Sociology founded by Pierre Bourdieu in Paris. He is a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, USA, school of social science (2012-3) and of the Institut Universitaire de France (2007-12). He has published 8 books, 2 of which have been published in English translation (The Bureaucrat and the Poor, Ashgate, 2010; The Sociology of Wind Bands, Ashgate, 2013). He has published around 80 scientific contributions in edited volumes and journals including International Journal of Cultural Policy, Cultural Sociology, Poetics, Social Analysis, Current Anthropology, Critical Policy Studies, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General