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Good taste, bad taste? Heres what your habits reveal about your social class

If you've ever changed the radio station when stopped at the traffic lights or pretended to have read George Orwell's 1984, you already have some idea that your cultural tastes betray something deeper about who you are.

New research from the Australian Cultural Fields project — one of the most detailed investigations into how cultural tastes and lifestyles connect with privilege in Australia — sheds light on what that might be.

The findings, to be published later this year, reveal how strongly our cultural tastes — such as the books we read, the music we like, the TV shows we watch, and so on — align with characteristics like class, education, age and gender.

More than that, the research shows that cultural privilege is often passed from generation to generation — a finding with all the more importance at a time of widening class inequality in Australia.

So, are your tastes upper class or working class? Middle-age or teenage? For a light-hearted look at how your cultural ..

If you've ever changed the radio station when stopped at the traffic lights or pretended to have read George Orwell's 1984, you already have some idea that your cultural tastes betray something deeper about who you are.

New research from the Australian Cultural Fields project — one of the most detailed investigations into how cultural tastes and lifestyles connect with privilege in Australia — sheds light on what that might be.

The findings, to be published later this year, reveal how strongly our cultural tastes — such as the books we read, the music we like, the TV shows we watch, and so on — align with characteristics like class, education, age and gender.

More than that, the research shows that cultural privilege is often passed from generation to generation — a finding with all the more importance at a time of widening class inequality in Australia.

So, are your tastes upper class or working class? Middle-age or teenage? For a light-hearted look at how your cultural tastes compare, take our quiz, based on the project's results. (You'll need around 6 minutes.)

And don't worry, your answers are not linked to your identity, nor will they be stored or passed on to anyone else.

This feature isn't available on the ABC app. Tap the link below to go to the quiz on the ABC website.

The quiz contains a fraction of the questions put to a nationally-representative sample of more than 1200 Australians as part of the Australian Cultural Fields project, funded by the Australian Research Council.

The survey asked participants around 200 questions about their tastes and activities in the visual arts, sport, heritage, literature, music and television. It also gathered detailed information about participants' personal characteristics, such as income, occupation, education, housing and assets — even the work and education characteristics of parents and partners.

A team of researchers from Western Sydney University, the University of Queensland, New York University and the University Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, then calculated how strongly each of these hundreds of variables connected to one another.

Turns out that whether you rock out to Madonna, can't stand Jane Austen or binge watch Grand Designs or Game of Thrones (or have never heard of either) is largely shaped by factors that have nothing to do with how cool you are.

How class and culture fit together

"The strongest drivers in taste are occupation and education," Tony Bennett, project director and research professor in social and cultural theory at Western Sydney University, said.

So, the higher your class, the more "highbrow" your tastes are likely to be.

Chart showing survey responses to the question

The research defines class by the type of work you do. It considers not just the job itself but also things like whether you're self-employed; how much autonomy you have at work; the degree of control you have over others; and how much economic capital you own (for example, if you own a small business or a large corporation or significant property assets).

Class is often, but not always, closely linked to education, the researchers found.

Chart showing survey responses to the question

"By and large, people with postgraduate degrees have the most distinctively high cultural tastes," Professor Bennett said.

"And if you've been to a private school, the chances of your having… higher cultural tastes are much greater than if you've been to a state school."

But class and education doesn't always have the biggest influence on taste. In sport, the most powerful divider is gender; in music, it's age.

"Similarly, in some aspects of television, age can be a more powerful divider than class and education," Professor Bennett said.

Chart showing survey responses to the question

By mapping how our cultural tastes and personal characteristics fit together, the researchers were able to show overlapping patterns in the preferences at the heart of our cultural selves.

"We can't predict exactly what any individual will like or not like," Professor Bennett said. "What we can do is predict the strong likelihood that tastes and social positions will stitch together."

So people who love Tim Winton's books and Monet's art, for example, are more likely to play tennis than rugby league and to listen to classical music than pop. They're also more likely to have postgraduate qualifications and work in management or professional occupations.

Age and gender are also part of the mix. Generally, women tend to have higher cultural tastes than men, and younger people tend to have more cutting-edge, contemporary tastes than older people of the same class, Professor Bennett said.

Chart showing survey responses to the question

The cycle of advantage

The research goes further, revealing not only the connections between class and culture, but also that these connections are reproduced across generations.

How middle class are your tastes?

The researchers found these tastes and characteristics tend to go together:

  • You work in lower management or a professional occupation such as teacher, social worker, nurse, accountant or solicitor
  • You own a lot of books (more than 500)
  • You read Australian novels
  • You like modern art
  • You prefer visiting museums or art galleries than playing organised sport
  • You prefer going to music events than watching television
  • You have a postgraduate degree, probably in the humanities and social sciences

The findings build on the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's theory that power in society is made up of a combination of three kinds of capital: economic, social and cultural.

Bourdieu argued that people from the upper and middle classes were more likely to grow up in homes where they were exposed to "highbrow" cultural activities and tastes. This familiarity with high culture pays off in the education system by giving people the kinds of cultural capital rewarded in the education system, according to Bourdieu.

This means people from upper and middle-class backgrounds, who are rich in cultural capital, are more likely to go university.

"And if you go to university, you're more likely to get a better job," Professor Bennett said.

"There's a cycle here of reproduction and inheritance here."

Widening class divisions mean these findings are potentially more important now than when Bourdieu first developed these ideas in the 1960s.

Class inequalities have increased dramatically since then, both in Australia and other western societies, Professor Bennett said.

"These class relations are also power relations. The owner of a large enterprise exercises a degree of control over the lives of routine workers, for example, in ways that the reverse is not true."

How working class are your tastes?

The researchers found these tastes and characteristics tend to go together:

  • You work in a routine, lower supervisory or technical job such as machine operator, bus driver, labourer or factory worker
  • You love country music
  • You watch more than five hours of television per week
  • You'd rather watch The Block than Australian Story
  • You're a fan of Eddie McGuire
  • You don't keep books at home or visit art galleries or museums
  • You've never heard of Tim Winton or Jackson Pollock
  • You have high school or incomplete high school qualifications

The patterns connecting culture and privilege operate in much the same way for Australia's multicultural and Indigenous communities as for Australians generally, the research found.

"Indeed, they're often more pronounced," Professor Bennett said.

"The connections between cultural capital, education, and class show that Australia still has a fair way to go before it can truly claim to be a society of the fair go. This is even more true if we take the full complexion of Australia's cultural diversity into account."

In addition to the 1202 respondents in the main sample, the researchers surveyed a further 260 Australians from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Lebanese, Italian, Indian and Chinese communities. Their analysis found these groups tended to engage more with Australian authors, music, art, celebrities and so on, than with international ones.

The ACF research has its limitations, Professor Bennett cautioned. It doesn't capture Australia's elite — "that very small percentage of the population that exercise significant economic power through their accumulation and inheritance of economic capital", he said.

It also doesn't produce a comprehensive picture of working class tastes and interests because it was designed to analyse what advantage accrues to those with higher cultural capital. "So, we already knew that very, very few people go to opera, but we put it in the questionnaire because it's a sign of distinction," he said.

It's also possible that some respondents could be reluctant to admit to tastes seen as "lowbrow". If we read survey data alongside ratings figures, for example, reality television seems to be "universally disliked but universally watched", Professor Bennett points out.

Nevertheless, the research reveals connections between culture and privilege in Australia that cannot be explained by economic forces alone.

Take just one example: visual art.

"Entry to art galleries is free in Australia but… our research showed that something like 35 per cent of people have never been to an art gallery," Professor Bennett said.

"This clearly isn't because of the cost. Powerful social and cultural barriers make many people, especially from lower class positions, feel that art galleries just aren't meant for them."

Credits

Data and reporting: Inga Ting

Development: Ri Liu and Nathanael Scott

Design and illustrations: Alex Palmer

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Australia

Michelle Guthrie suing ABC after being dumped as managing director

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board “had no reason to trigger the termination clause”.

Key points

Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, “details of the complaint are not a matter of public record”.

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne..

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board "had no reason to trigger the termination clause".

Key points

  • Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
  • At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
  • By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, "details of the complaint are not a matter of public record".

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne said directors had resolved it was not in the best interests of the broadcaster for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.

He said the board had made the decision in the interest of "the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week".

He would not be drawn on exactly what had led to the decision "out of respect" to Ms Guthrie, however when pressed, said her "leadership style" had been a factor.

At the time, Ms Guthrie said she felt her termination was unjustified and that she was considering her legal options.

"While my contract permits the board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the board to trigger that termination clause," she said.

"At no point have any issues been raised with me about the transformation being undertaken, the Investing in Audiences strategy, and my effectiveness in delivering against that strategy."

Ms Guthrie was sacked on Monday, September 24, and by the end of the week Mr Milne had also resigned amid accusations he interfered in the broadcaster's editorial independence.

In the days after Ms Guthrie's acrimonious departure, explosive reports in Fairfax and News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had urged the then-managing director to sack two prominent reporters because the Government "hated" them.

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Australia

Unions furious about Government’s decision to join casual workers court case

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers “double dipping” on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused “anxiety” among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

“It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear,” Ms O'Dwyer said.

“That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

“Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future.”

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a cas..

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers "double dipping" on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused "anxiety" among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

"It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

"Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future."

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a casual truck driver to claim leave entitlements.

"This is a new test case particularly looking at the offset arrangements," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"I am intervening in this case to clarify what was not clarified in the previous court decision.

"The anxiety that this has created among small businesses right across the country is one that needs to be settled and settled very quickly."

Unions are furious with Ms O'Dwyer's decision, accusing the Minister of fundamentally misunderstanding both the law and the circumstances of the case.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O'Neil said the truck driver in the first case had been employed for two-and-a-half years, and was paid 30 per cent less than permanent workers at the company.

"What the company did was, instead of employing him as a permanent worker as they should have, they used a labour hire firm to bring him in on a rate that was 30 per cent less," Ms O'Neil said.

"So how is that worker doing anything other than ensuring that his rights are protected? And that's what the court has done.

"The court has looked at the circumstances and said, 'This isn't casual, this is fake casual and he's entitled to be paid his accrued annual leave'."

She said Ms O'Dwyer was wasting taxpayer funds, and was simply backing big business.

"The Minister doesn't understand the law, this is not that unusual a decision," Ms O'Neil said.

"There's been more than 20 years of precedent cases like this where the courts have said if you enter into a sham, if you have someone that's employed long term, if you have someone that's on a regular shift, regular hours, then you can't just call that person a casual and get away with it.

"So for the Minister to suggest, and for the business lobby to suggest that somehow this is an unusual case that has put at risk the whole employment of casuals is wrong."

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The South Tyrol question, explained

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: “South Tyrol will be free!” Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbourin..

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: "South Tyrol will be free!" Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbouring province of Trentino formed the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

The rights of the German- and Ladin-speaking minorities were officially protected under the 1948 Autonomy Statute. But the South Tyrolean People's Party began pushing for greater provincial autonomy in the mid-1950s, and in the 1960s German-speaking militants even carried out a series of sometimes deadly bomb attacks against symbols of Italian state authority.

A revised statute came into force in 1972, devolving most powers to the provinces and setting up power-sharing between the linguistic groups in South Tyrol.

Around 65 percent of South Tyroleans identify themselves as German speakers, 27 percent Italian and four percent Ladin, a Romance language.

Are people happy with the current status quo?

Most people seem to be. The Open Democracy website reports that the proportion of South Tyroleans
comfortable with "socio-political cohabitation" between the linguistic groups rose from eight percent in 1991 to 53 percent by 2014.

While many parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers still have pro-independence statutes, the province is proud it is frequently held up as a model of peaceful cohabitation.

READ ALSO: Italy's South Tyrol: where an identity crisis lingers

Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

What is Austria's proposal?

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's idea is to offer Austrian passports to South Tyrol's German- and Ladin-speaking populations, but not to Italian speakers. But Vienna has not spelt out in detail who would be eligible.

Guenther Pallaver, political science professor at Innsbruck University, sees two possibilities.

"The first would be historical or genealogical, where the applicant must prove that their parents or grandparents were citizens of the former Austrian Empire," Pallaver said. "But as successive generations pass, such a lineage becomes increasingly difficult to prove."

The second variant would be ethnic and linguistic. "South Tyroleans must officially choose which linguistic group they belong to. But no language tests are carried out to verify a person's fluency," Pallaver said.

Another complication is that Austria does not permit dual nationality.

Who is for and against?

Most parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers are in favour, while most of the Italian parties are against, echoing Rome's position.

South Tyrol's Green Party says excluding Italian speakers would be problematic and could fuel resentment between the different language groups.

Some opponents also argue the scheme could be used as a back door for migrants to gain Austrian nationality.

Is a solution likely any time soon?

With no concrete proposal on the table from Vienna and fierce resistance in Rome, no solution is in sight in the near term, says Marc Roeggla, researcher in minority rights at the EURAC institute in Bolzano.

"It's very, very difficult to say. I could say it will happen within the next few years." But it all depends on what solutions Austria puts forward, he says.

READ ALSO: Italy and Austria at odds over South Tyrol dual-citizenship


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

By AFP's Simon Morgan

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