In the humanities, several debates have emerged focusing entirely on how people define and accept the different representations and subsets of culture in contemporary living. As a manifestation of the human intellectual achievements, a culture is expressed through different art forms, movements, economic systems, and even products for public consumption.
However, the main focus of these discussions is addressed on the great divide between high culture and popular culture. This idea springs from the concept that although high culture represents the best that has been thought and written in the world, it is on its way to extinction. In fact, many believe that it is already “lost” because of the emergence of the more recent popular culture.
In definition, high culture resides on the lifestyle, literature, attitudes, and activities that set the refined elites and members of the ruling class apart from the generic, mass society. One particular example is how the privileged can enjoy specific forms of art like the opera while such access to this Renaissance art form is not available to the general public. However, the sudden emergence of the popular culture has disrupted this reality, replacing the once dominant position of high culture with something that can be shared by the masses of the society—the pop culture.
Popular culture encourages totally different consumption patterns, and believe in a more general type of literature and lifestyle. In fact, it lacks the sophistication of the high culture. Nonetheless, this humility makes it more attractive to the general public. One perfect example is the popularity of fast food chains over epicurean fine dining.
The influence of the wide dissimilarities between these subcultures and how one is more favored than the other have effects that are not limited to the humanities and its philosophical debates but also to the society as a whole. Just like how ideas change histories, these positions can also affect social policies and contribute to the shaping of cultural institutions.