An opera house for the "Paris of South America": Pathways to the institutionalization of high culture

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9 Scopus citations


Who has the power to institutionalize culture? How is it that cultural forms become legitimated and appropriated by certain groups? And what are the organizational forms that guarantee the continuity of the interlocks among classifications, etiquette, and resources in the long run? This article explores these questions by observing the struggle over the institutionalization of opera as high culture during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in Buenos Aires, a region of the world understudied by cultural sociologists. It contends that to answer these questions we need to observe the contested dynamics though which the process of institutionalization happens. It also shows how this contestation affects, in the long-term, the processes of evaluation and legitimation of the classification upheld, and the consequences it has in terms of audience stratification. In the Discussion section, I present a novel framework for the study of pathways to high culture institutionalization that highlights how the role of the state and competing stakeholders can introduce variable relationships among the elites, the arts, and social closure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-196
Number of pages28
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Classification
  • Cultural entrepreneurship
  • Elites
  • High culture
  • Social closure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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