Economic downturns and terrorist attacks notwithstanding,
America's love affair with luxury continues unabated. Over the last
several years, luxury spending in the United States has been
growing four times faster than overall spending. It has been
characterized by political leaders as vital to the health of the
American economy as a whole, even as an act of patriotism.
Accordingly, indices of consumer confidence and purchasing seem
unaffected by recession. This necessary consumption of unnecessary
items and services is going on at all but the lowest layers of
society: J.C. Penney now offers day spa treatments; Kmart sells
cashmere bedspreads. So many products are claiming luxury status
today that the credibility of the category itself is strained: for
example, the name "pashmina" had to be invented to top mere
We see luxury everywhere: in storefronts, advertisements, even
in the workings of our imaginations. But what is it? How is it
manufactured on the factory floor and in the minds of consumers?
Who cares about it and who buys it? And how concerned should we be
that luxuries are commanding a larger and larger percentage of both
our disposable income and our aspirations?
Trolling the upscale malls of America, making his way toward the
Mecca of Las Vegas, James B. Twitchell comes to some remarkable
conclusions. The democratization of luxury, he contends, has been
the single most important marketing phenomenon of our times. In the
pages of Living It Up, Twitchell commits the academic
heresy of paying respect to popular luxury consumption as a force
that has united the country and the globe in a way that no war,
movement, or ideology ever has. What's more, he claims, the
shopping experience for Americans today has its roots in the
spiritual, the religious, and the transcendent.
Deft and subtle writing, audacious ideas, and a fine sense of
humor inform this entertaining and insightful book.
Subjects: Sociology, Marketing & Advertising, History
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