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The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness Paperback – September 7, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Writing in Vanity Fair, Sam Tanenhaus described her as "a master D.J. who sequences the latest riffs from the hard sciences, the social sciences, business, and technology, to name only a few sources."
Postrel is the author most recently of The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion (2013). Her previous books are The Substance of Style (2003) and The Future and Its Enemies (1998).
She is a regular columnist for Bloomberg View.
To learn more about her and read a large archive of her articles and blog posts, visit vpostrel.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I came to this book with the same trepidation because I didn't particularly care for Postrel's last book, The Future and its Enemies. But, I ended up a convert. Sure, Postrel's thesis here is a simple one, but this only underscores its elegance. That we all demand ambiance with our coffee and a flourish with our door knobs is something many folks take for granted. But the thing is, it's an unprecedented change in the history of human consumption and I don't know of anyone who has catalogued it like Postrel has. That profitability and business survival increasingly depend on the intangible "feel" of a product or service--and not on its traditional utility--will still come as a surprise to many old-school thinkers.
What Postrel does in this book is engagingly prove her two points beyond a doubt. Sure, they're simple points, but the book is short and packed with interesting anecdotes. I recommend this book to anyone interested in design, but especially to folks who think there's no value in looks or those who might be tempted to fault our modern "consumerist" culture as wasteful.
The book surveys a wide variety of trends -- from fashion to cosmetic surgery to restaurant design -- and shows how they fit this common pattern. We hear about Martha Stewart, Starbucks, the iMac, fashion magazines, tiled floors, nice salad bowls, and the Michael Graves brush from Target. The age of Wonder Bread is gone, and the middle class can now buy a sense of style previously reserved for the wealthy. Postrel declines the enterprise of demarcation and does not try to draw a boundary between art and the pleasures of daily life.
Some of the best passages concern globalization. In Turkey the number of interior design magazines has number from one to forty in a decade. Japan is becoming a fashion capital, while South Korea and Singapore are becoming centers of design (p.14).
Any reader of my own works, which stress how commerce brings us plenty, diversity, and creativity, will not be surprised how thoroughly I agree with Postrel. So I will spend the rest of this review outlining my primary worry with the book, noting that my own research is open to the same questions.
To put it bluntly, sometimes I wonder just how much these aesthetic developments make us better off. No, I am not advocating a return to Mao's gray pajamas.Read more ›
Postrel has done her homework on art, design, and aesthetics. As an outsider to the artworld (an economist writing for publications ranging from the New York Times and Reason Magazine), she offers new insights in the stuffy and exclusive club of academia, aesthetics, and art theory. Such cross-fertilization of disciplines offers the potential for break-though observations. Postrel's book proves this point by introducing consumer preferences, the creativity and competition of the marketplace, and product distinction as central to "good" design.
The author gains from others who have likewise crossed their disciplines with art and aesthetics. The observations and findings of noted anthropolgist, Ellen Disanyake is an example. Disanyake studied the visual arts in a wide range of non-western cultures and found some basic similarities in why art (and decorative artifacts)are produced. Essentially she claims that art is "to make something special." That's it.
And in a marketplace driven economy such as the United States, this function of art (and design) is finally being recognized and treasured again after decades of confusion and inreasing academic exclusiveness about the purpose of art. I particularly enjoy Postrel's tongue in cheek summay of form-follows-function purism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the book and it made me think about style in ways I'm not accustomed to, but to be honest, it was a bit of a slog to get through and I didn't finish it. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ted Sanders
I very much enjoyed this book. Well written and argued, I enjoyed the premise much more than I originally thought. Read morePublished 12 months ago by S.M.Boydstun
Beauty is a distinct advantage in life. Postrel leads us through a rational, interesting and compelling argument as to the power and the intrinsic advantages enjoyed by the... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Questhm
This is the product of a hack. Her essential argument is that companies are increasingly able to make beautiful, cool stuff for an increasingly demanding public. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Robert J. Crawford
Postrel is insightful and as a person who appreciates material things I appreciated her explanation of why so many people want the best of the best. Things make a difference. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Linda F. Greenberg
I have not read many books since entering middle age that have metaphorically grabbed me by the lapels, batted me around, and screamed "WAKE UP and actually THINK about your... Read morePublished on January 5, 2014 by Christopher K. Gray
A great idea to look at aesthetics from this perspective of advertising and media. Unfortunately this ambitious book strings together just too many ideas with little analysis. Read morePublished on August 30, 2013 by m stone
I liked the ideas in this book, it was very enlightening. Quick read too. It was for a class which is why I could not bring myself to "love it"...Published on January 30, 2013 by apet