In this thought-provoking collection of essays, editor Thomas Frank and other contributors to the contrarian journal the Baffler
examine the unprecedented ascendancy of business as the
dominating force in American life. If the closest historical parallel is with the Gilded Age and its all-powerful robber barons, Frank and his ilk clearly see themselves as the muckrakers out to expose the absurdities and abuses of big business. Today, however, advertising has come to permeate every aspect of our society, and corporations are in the business of manufacturing culture--what Frank calls the "Culture Trust." These essays analyze the ways in which this Culture Trust has co-opted the power of dissent by appropriating the language and symbolism of nonconformist youth culture, from hippie slang to grunge fashion; in other words, when the media markets rebellion, it becomes just another consumer choice. As evidence, the essayists explore the image of consumer as rebel pioneered by publications such as Details
, as well as the preeminence of "revolutionary" business gurus such as Tom Peters. The result is a highly original book, a satirical and savage indictment of '90s consumerist culture.
You'd have to look back at the fights between New York intellectuals in the fifties to find the sort of verbal firepower unleashed here. -- Nation
[Frank is] ... perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment, and certainly the most malcontent... Although he has been to graduate school ... both his thinking and his prose hark back to a time when the radical left was something more in America than conferences and seminars attended by Foucault-steeped professors. Frank has thrown off the mandarin jargon; for him it's about wealth and power, haves and have-nots, loud and simple--it's as if he were channeling Herbert Marcuse and C. Wright Mills and Thorstein Veblen through a boom box. -- The New York Times Book Review, Gerald Marzorati