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American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and the Quest for Perfection Hardcover – December 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Essig, assistant professor of sociology at Middlebury College, argues that our national obsession with plastic money and plastic surgery is more than a cultural fad; it's a capitalist conspiracy engineered to persuade Americans that problems of economic insecurity, downward mobility, and lack of opportunity for the poor can be solved by consumption. Essig posits that the national tendency toward self-reinvention has been hijacked into a new and impossible American Dream: attaining the perfect body. She traces this shift to the 1980s, when trickle-down Reaganomics, financial deregulation, and the AMA's decision to allow cosmetic surgery marketing converged with a neoliberal rhetoric wherein "public issues became defined as personal troubles and problems of lifestyles." America's classic preoccupations with "rugged individualism" and "self-improvement" shifted to the literal canvas of our physical bodies; the result, Essig cautions, is a "plastic ideological complex," a relationship to our personal and national self-image that will lead to an economically and emotionally insecure future. Essig has a brisk, smart style and she approaches her subject with a welcome serving of wit--which keeps her message on target even as some of her prescriptions (forming "reality-check" groups with our friends) are woefully insufficient. (Dec.)
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“American Plastic is an incisive analysis and critique of the rise of the cosmetic surgery industry. Challenging the underpinnings of contemporary Neoliberalism, which spawned an unregulated ‘cosmetic industrial complex’ that is fueled by rising economic inequality and socially irresponsible consumer lending, Essig illuminates the political, social, and economic costs of the uniquely American quest for ‘perfection.’ Its narrative ying and yang of boob jobs and credit cards gives new meaning to ‘plastic peril.’” —Robert D. Manning, author, Credit Card Nation, and Director, Institute for Consumer Financial Services
“American Plastic is a playful but deadly earnest reportage on plastic America – the fateful collisions of cosmetic surgery and credit (which pays for most of it), beauty and pornography (which now defines beauty), and technology and perfection (which technology affects to make possible). Capturing the many meanings of plastic and plasticity, Laurie Essig portrays a society which, on the way to trying to remake the female body, is unmaking its core reality in ways equally devastating to women and the economy. Women will read this book, men need to.”—Benjamin R. Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld and Consumed, Distinguished Senior Fellow, DEMOS
“A fascinating, original, and engaging exploration of the connection between plastic surgery and our economic crisis. Laurie Essig illuminates the dark side of the promise of perfection and offers inspirational strategies for change.”
—Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., creator of the Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women film series and author of Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
"Laurie Essig provides a freewheeling, interdisciplinary commentary on the special connections between culture, economics and the cosmetic surgery industry. Through fieldwork with consumers as well as providers, she explores with humor and understanding the willingness of Americans to take on high interest loans to reshape their bodies. If you know nothing about the medical credit world, this is a revealing and provocative book." —Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls and Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa
“Since Dustin Hoffman heard that memorable ‘just one word,’ plastic has re-made American society. In a stroke of brilliance, Laurie Essig brings together plastic credit cards, bodies, and gender identities by telling the story of how economic insecurity has intersected with the celebrity culture and the neo-liberal ideology of choice. Essig's well-researched and original analysis deserves our serious attention.”—Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth
“Will likely be controversial, but Essig offers fascinating and troubling insights into the American psyche.”— Kirkus Reviews
“Essig has a brisk, smart style and she approaches her subject with a welcome serving of wit”—Publisher's Weekly