Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases.
It can be inelegant, and eclectics are sometimes criticized for lack of consistency in their thinking, but it is common in many fields of study. For example, most psychologists accept parts of behaviorism, but do not attempt to use the theory to explain all aspects of human behavior. A statistician may use frequentist techniques on one occasion and Bayesian ones on another. An example of eclecticism in economics is John Dunning's eclectic theory of international production.
The term eclecticism is used to describe the combination in a single work of elements from different historical styles, chiefly in architecture and, by implication, in the fine and decorative arts. The term is sometimes also loosely applied to the general stylistic variety of 19th century architecture after Neo-classicism (c. 1820), although the revivals of styles in that period have, since the 1970s, generally been referred to as aspects of historicism.
Eclecticism plays an important role in critical discussions and evaluations but is somehow distant from the actual forms of the artefacts to which it is applied, and its meaning is thus rather indistinct. The simplest definition of the term—that every work of art represents the combination of a variety of influences—is so basic as to be of little use. In some ways Eclecticism is reminiscent of Mannerism in that the term was used pejoratively for much of the period of its currency, although, unlike Mannerism, Eclecticism never amounted to a movement or constituted a specific style: it is characterized precisely by the fact that it was not a particular style.
Since the mid-19th century, eclecticism, in which there is no a priori bias to a single manuscript, has been the dominant method of editing the Greek text of the New Testament (currently, the United Bible Society, 4th ed. and Nestle-Aland, 27th ed.). Even so, the oldest manuscripts, being of the Alexandrian text-type, are the most favored, and the critical text has an Alexandrian disposition.
Robin Holloway cites the composers Britten, Shostakovich, Copland, Poulenc and Tippett as eclectic composers, 'along the lines first boldly laid by Stravinsky; they make their idiom from very diverse sources, assimilating and transforming them into themselves'
In fact, most popular western music can be classified as eclectic, as virtually the entire genres of blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, punk, reggae, country, Rhythm & Blues, electronica, salsa, and others are openly derivative of well-established forms- often, the genre acquires a new name to assist in marketing. The Beatles 'White Album' can be considered a turning point in pop music because it successfully showed that the public could appreciate musicians' mastery of several distinctively different styles on a single album- blues, hard rock, psychedelia, ballads and more. As well, Sly & the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Stevie Wonder, and Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, were foremost among those most successful in producing music which defied definition. This was because any given song on certain albums might be classified as jazz, blues, rock, country, or other. In recent years, such artists as Beck, Manu Chao, Ce-Lo, Sublime, Lauryn Hill, Kultur Shock, Tracy Chapman, Michelle N'Dgocello, Jon Wiseman's 24-Hour Virtual Music Marathon, and Prince, have habitually produced music which refused to adhere to any particular label but drew upon and demanded appreciation of a multitude of cultural influences. Technology such as mp3s, filesharing, cheap media players, open source software, and inexpensive recording/editing software, will undoubtedly increase this trend as listeners exert even more control over what they hear.