• Antoine Hennion Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation, École des Mines de Paris


music studies listening reception taste pragmatics


This article reformulates the sociology of music as an exercise that is not content with merely circling around music, either in order to give it a context or to turn it into a social resource for any kind of claim. By contrast, I examine musical works in terms of what they do and make us do, and to press beyond the ill-conceived dualism posed by disciplines – the all-in-the-work vs. the all-in-the-social. This means aiming for a sociology of art, but now in the ablative sense; in other words, what can sociology do ‘from’ art, as opposed to what it can do ‘with’ it (as we would say of something we’d rather do away with…). This project requires a pragmatic turn and an anti-dualist vision. By understanding as part of the same movement both the presence of the world and the presence in the world, the object known and the act of knowing (a point conveyed so well by the notion of ‘affordance’), pragmatism leads us to say that the work is the list of its occurrences and of its effects. What clearly sets this posture apart from aesthetic essentialism and from sociological reductionism is that, in this position, the object matters a great deal – but an object seen now through the ‘feedbacks’ and reactions it enables. This reformulated music/sociology involves the co-formation of the work, its frame of appreciation and the sensibility of a listener, leading us away from the sterile oscillation between the meaning contained in the works and the meaning projected arbitrarily onto them.

Author Biography

Antoine Hennion, Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation, École des Mines de Paris

Antoine Hennion is Professor and Research Director at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, École des Mines, Paris. His research in the sociology of music and culture focuses on the cultural industries, advertising and design, mediators, services and users. He is currently working on a comparative analysis of various forms of attachment, through a study of amateurs. He is author of numerous articles on music, mediation, education, taste and advertising. His books include La passion musicale (Métailié, 2007), La grandeur de Bach. L'amour de la musique en France au XIXe siècle (with J. M. Fauquet, Fayard, 2000) and Comment la musique vient aux enfants. Une anthropologie de l’enseignement musical (Anthropos, 1988).