In today’s world, the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite. Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breast-feed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption—like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates. In The Sum of Small Things, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett dubs this segment of society “the aspirational class” and discusses how, through deft decisions about education, health, parenting, and retirement, the aspirational class reproduces wealth and upward mobility, deepening the ever-wider class divide.
Exploring the rise of the aspirational class, Currid-Halkett considers how much has changed since the 1899 publication of Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. In that inflammatory classic, which coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” Veblen described upper-class frivolities: men who used walking sticks for show, and women who bought silver flatware despite the effectiveness of cheaper aluminum utensils. Now, Currid-Halkett argues, the power of material goods as symbols of social position has diminished due to their accessibility. As a result, the aspirational class has altered its consumer habits away from overt materialism to more subtle expenditures that reveal status and knowledge. And these transformations influence how we all make choices.
With a rich narrative and extensive interviews and research, The Sum of Small Things illustrates how cultural capital leads to lifestyle shifts and what this forecasts, not just for the aspirational class but for everyone.
The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live.
In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences.
The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.
The ethnographic sections of the book are based on a year's study of shopping on a street in North London. This provides the basis for a sensitive description of the issues the shopper confronts when making decisions as to what to buy. Miller develops a theory to account for these observations, arguing that shopping typically consists of three major stages which reflect the three key stages of many rites of sacrifice. In both shopping and sacrifice the ultimate intention is to constitute others as desiring subjects. Finally the book examines certain historical shifts in both subjects and objects of devotion, in particular, ideals of gender and love.
This treatment of shopping from the perspective of comparative anthropology represents a highly innovative approach to one of the most familiar tasks of our daily lives. Written in a clear and accessible manner, this book will be of interest to students and academics in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies, as well as anybody who wants to consider more deeply the nature of their own everyday activities.
Celebrity—our collective fascination with particular people—is everywhere and takes many forms, from the sports star, notorious Wall Street tycoon, or film icon, to the hometown quarterback, YouTube sensation, or friend who compulsively documents his life on the Internet. We follow with rapt attention all the minute details of stars' lives: their romances, their spending habits, even how they drink their coffee. For those anointed, celebrity can translate into big business and top social status, but why do some attain stardom while millions of others do not? Why are we simply more interested in certain people?
In Starstruck, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett presents the first rigorous exploration of celebrity, arguing that our desire to "celebrate" some people and not others has profound implications, elevating social statuses, making or breaking careers and companies, and generating astronomical dividends. Tracing the phenomenon from the art world to tabletop gaming conventions to the film industry, Currid-Halkett looks at celebrity as an expression of economics, geography (both real and virtual), and networking strategies.
Starstruck brings together extensive statistical research and analysis, along with interviews with top agents and publicists, YouTube executives, major art dealers and gallery directors, Bollywood players, and sports experts. Laying out the enormous impact of the celebrity industry and identifying the patterns by which individuals become stars, Currid-Halkett successfully makes the argument that celebrity is an important social phenomenon and a driving force in the worldwide economy.
In America, everyone knows that the top 1 percent are the villains. The rest of us, the 99 percent—we are the good guys. Not so, argues Reeves. The real class divide is not between the upper class and the upper middle class: it is between the upper middle class and everyone else.
The separation of the upper middle class from everyone else is both economic and social, and the practice of “opportunity hoarding”—gaining exclusive access to scarce resources—is especially prevalent among parents who want to perpetuate privilege to the benefit of their children. While many families believe this is just good parenting, it is actually hurting others by reducing their chances of securing these opportunities. There is a glass floor created for each affluent child helped by his or her wealthy, stable family. That glass floor is a glass ceiling for another child.
Throughout Dream Hoarders, Reeves explores the creation and perpetuation of opportunity hoarding, and what should be done to stop it, including controversial solutions such as ending legacy admissions to school. He offers specific steps toward reducing inequality and asks the upper middle class to pay for it.
Convinced of their merit, members of the upper middle class believes they are entitled to those tax breaks and hoarded opportunities. After all, they aren’t the 1 percent. The national obsession with the super rich allows the upper middle class to convince themselves that they are just like the rest of America. In Dream Hoarders, Reeves argues that in many ways, they are worse, and that changes in policy and social conscience are the only way to fix the broken system.
In many ways, Haynes's family defied the odds. All four great-grandparents on his father's side owned land in the South as early as 1880. His grandfather, George Edmund Haynes, was the founder of the National Urban League and a protégé of eminent black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois; his grandmother, Elizabeth Ross Haynes, was a noted children's author of the Harlem Renaissance and a prominent social scientist. Yet these early advances and gains provided little anchor to the succeeding generations. This story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling three-story brownstone in Sugar Hill that once hosted Harlem Renaissance elites and later became an embodiment of the family's rise and demise. Down the Up Staircase is a stirring portrait of this family, each generation walking a tightrope, one misstep from free fall.
In today’s new economy—in which “good” jobs are typically knowledge or technology based—many well-educated and culturally savvy young men are instead choosing to pursue traditionally low-status manual labor occupations as careers. Masters of Craft looks at the renaissance of four such trades: bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering.
In this in-depth and engaging book, Richard Ocejo takes you into the lives and workplaces of these people to examine how they are transforming these once-undesirable jobs into “cool” and highly specialized upscale occupational niches—and in the process complicating our notions about upward and downward mobility through work. He shows how they find meaning in these jobs by enacting a set of “cultural repertoires,” which include technical skills based on a renewed sense of craft and craftsmanship and an ability to understand and communicate that knowledge to others, resulting in a new form of elite taste-making. Ocejo describes the paths people take to these jobs, how they learn their chosen trades, how they imbue their work practices with craftsmanship, and how they teach a sense of taste to their consumers.
Focusing on cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole-animal butcher shop workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and upstate New York, Masters of Craft provides new insights into the stratification of taste, gentrification, and the evolving labor market in today’s postindustrial city.