What light can sociology shed on art and culture in contemporary society? What is distinctive about the sociological understanding of art? In what ways is the sociology of art today developing new insights into the nature of artistic life? This volume contains essays by a wide range of authors, each of whom is concerned with showing the multiple ways in which artistic processes are profoundly shaped by their social settings. Encompassing a wide range of artistic fields, including painting, film, ballet and architecture, the book demonstrates how sociological appreciations of art and artists provide rich and stimulating alternative perspectives to conventional art criticism.