International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), together with partners at the University of Stavanger and University of Bergen, received funding from the Research Council for the project «Rapid social change, value transformation and the field of culture - the city of Stavanger as a prism». The outset for the project were the rapid economic and social changes in Stavanger over the last 40 years, changes that are due to Stavanger's role as the "oil-capital" of Norway. The research questions included: if, and if so how, these changes have led to changes in values and in aesthetic valuation. Thus, we see Stavanger as a "prism" for many of the larger societal changes in Norway and in the Western world, marked with tags like globalization, individualization, liberalization etc. Regarding data, the project has included several surveys from the Stavanger-region, data from a national survey (Norsk Monitor) and extensive interviews with 39 inhabitants of Stavanger.
We first identified the presumed rapid economic growth during the last four decades, and the concurrent changes in education, occupational structure, immigration etc. These changes are reflected in an increased social differentiation. The monolithic class structure from around 1970 has been divided into different class fractions based on the composition of capital (economic and cultural), first witnessed in the upper classes, and later downwards in the hierarchy. At the same time the "class journey" (social mobility) of the city coincided with the inhabitants' class journeys; due to the small and homogenous bourgeoisie around 1970, the upwards travelers themselves have formed the upper classes. This has resulted in the upward social mobility coming about without notable friction and frustration. As a result, there are also limited oppositions in the region; the wealth is considered as deserved since it results from hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit, and the opposition towards the rich that we identify, comes mainly from the cultural elite, not the working classes.
As regards the values held by the inhabitants, a larger picture is that the social-democratic order in Norway, and the "long tentacles" of the welfare state, more or less overshadow the possible impact of Stavanger becoming a nouveaux rich city. Of course, there are characteristics that are specific to Stavanger, but the main stories that our project tells, such as a shift from shortage of money to the shortage of time, are common features in Norway. As the former capital of religion the secularization is a markedly feature in Stavanger-region during the last decades, expressed as a kind of "religious amnesia". Again the city and region falls more in line with rest of the country. The middle class values are the ruling values.
Cultural valuation and social distinctions do coincide, but not as a rule. We see this concurrence most clearly in the field of architecture. Departing from a sober and low-key wooden house architecture, the housing in Stavanger has become a showcase for social mobility and position. There are clear distinctions between which houses one appreciates and which ones repel one. These are structured mainly by education, but also economic capital. These distinctions are not visible for all: Life-stage, age and economy are visible differentiation mechanism - everyone knows that houses reflects these and that this has social impact. How education divides people, however, regarding taste in architecture but also on other aesthetic fields seems only to be visible to those who have higher education themselves.
In the field of reading literature, in contrast, the taste distinctions and the existence of a taste hierarchy are downplayed. This is due the fact that taste in literature is to a larger extent tied to the individual, so that aesthetic valuations quickly converts into moral judgements of people's character, which is not in tune with an egalitarian Norwegian culture. The Norwegian school system also plays a role here, emphasizing the pupils own interpretation and valuation of the literary work as the valid one.
To draw a synoptic picture, we have identified a sort of ambivalence in the culture in Stavanger; increased differentiation exists together with an egalitarian basic attitude, where differences in taste both are under-communicated and veiled, and are clearly expressed, where judgement based on values are just partly reflected in actual behavior etc. This ambivalence does not manifest itself as oppositions, or even as conflict, between social groups or fractions. The pleasurable of the economy seem to smoothen the ambivalence. At least until today.
During the last few decades, the city of Stavanger, Norway, has experienced fundamental changes. The city has taken a dramatic step from being a relatively isolated counter-culture petit bourgeoisie city on the losing end in the 1960s, to becoming a first -line city of late modernity in the 2000s. The social changes experienced in this city are changes characteristic of late modernity across the globe, including liberalisation, pluralisation, aesthetisation, globalisation, commercialisation, and individual isation. Whereas these changes generally occur relatively slowly, the transitions between different discursive, historical and socio-spatial structures (religion, oil, culture) have occurred quickly in Stavanger. This situation informs the research design of this project, wherein the city of Stavanger is used as an analytical prism for identifying and analysing the transition to late modernity. Various aspects of culture are used to illuminate social change.
Using Pierre Bourdieus theoretical framework, as well as theories on cosmopolitanism and omnivorism, as starting-point, we conduct an ambitious empirical study. We triangulate historical material, surveys and qualitative interviews. For the latter, we employ innovative visual methods (photo elicitati on), interviewing people from two cohorts, born in the periods 1945-1950 and 1975-1980, respectively. The qualitative data form the main empirical emphasis of the project.
To test the hypothesis that following rapid social change there will be increased openness, which in turn leads to transformed principles of cultural valuation, we construct four comprehensive cases within the main case. These are about culture and aesthetics: Architecture, literature, home decoration and visual arts.
Sociology and va rious disciplines of the humanities constitute the transdisciplinary researcher group.