Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxuryby James B. Twitchell
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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 cashmere.
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.
Twitchell makes a persuasive argument that the desire for status goods provides a cohesive bond.
Twitchell is an amusingly sassy writer, and he clearly had so much fun researching this book.
Interesting tidbits... Twitchell makes the case for a mild defense of luxury in that its mass consumption ultimately lifts up the masses economically.
Very interesting... intriguing... highly engaging, witty, and sophisticated.
The author is savvy enough to conduct most of his research in the real world. This is the rare book project that forces the writer to shop on Rodeo Drive, leaf through Vanity Fair... and visit the most extravagant spots in Las Vegas.... [An] engaging addition to the growing field of Luxe Lit.
Exuberant, sprightly, mischievous, gaudy, dippy, endlessly entertaining, and also a bit sad.
Twitchell is at his best here: witty, observant, and self-deprecating...Living It Up is a pleasure to read. Twitchell is an engaging and entertaining writer.
- Columbia University Press
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What People are saying about this
James Twitchell is our most perceptive commentator on materialism and popular culture. Read his books!
A very useful addition to the literature of shopping, from an astute observer of commercial culture.
Meet the Author
James B. Twitchell is professor of English at the University of Florida and the author of many books including Adcult USA, Lead Us Into Temptation, and 20 Ads That Shook the World.
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