The central theme of this issue of Electra is Taste. To open this discussion, we might say that it is difficult to recognise a value of universal truth in the Latin maxim De gustibus non est disputandum – in matters of taste there can be no disputes – from the moment (that moment being the 18th century) when the world of taste replaced the world of beauty that had prevailed since Antiquity.

The category of taste then became the foundation of an aesthetic reason that the 20th century artistic avant-garde came to profoundly upset. We know that taste is now an issue that is practically absent from discussions on contemporary art and that the simple evocation of a sensus communis, which sometimes places it within the territories of bad taste, has acquired the aspect of an anachronistic judgment devoid of critical value. But the taste category has become indispensable to describe how the social world works and it is not by chance that, in this matter, the sociological productions of Pierre Bourdieu continue to be an important reference. Mass culture, having extended its domination to every aspect of daily life, confronts us with the coercive and spectacular mechanisms through which taste is manufactured on a global scale. This homogenisation crosses borders and brings the different ‘classes’ closer, which essentially can no longer be differentiated with regards to their cultural tastes. It is impossible to ignore the important role that mass media play in this process of homogenisation of taste and the triumph of kitsch – that modern phenomenon that has colonised vast areas of social and cultural life. Kitsch imposes itself mainly through the production and circulation of images, that is, through a numbing aestheticisation. In the past – such a remote past that we only find it when we research a genealogy of taste – remains the figure claimed by ‘French civilisation’: homme de goût [man of taste].