- Paperback: 322 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226260127
- ISBN-13: 978-0226260129
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism 1st Edition
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In his book-length essay The Conquest of Cool, Thomas Frank explores the ways in which Madison Avenue co-opted the language of youthful '60s rebellion. It is "the story," Frank writes, "of the bohemian cultural style's trajectory from adversarial to hegemonic; the story of hip's mutation from native language of the alienated to that of advertising." This appropriation had wide-ranging consequences that deeply transformed our culture--consequences that linger in the form of '90s "hip consumerism." (Think of Nike using the song "Revolution" to sell sneakers, or Coca-Cola using replicas of Ken Kesey's bus to peddle Fruitopia.)
This is no simplistic analysis of how the counterculture "sold out" to big business. Instead, Frank shows how the counterculture and business culture influenced one another. In fact, he writes, the counterculture's critique of mass society mimicked earlier developments in business itself, when a new generation of executives attacked the stultified, hierarchical nature of corporate life. Counterculture and business culture evolved together over time--until the present day, when they have become essentially the same thing. According to Frank, the '60s live on in the near-archetypal dichotomy of "hip" and "square," now part of advertising vernacular, signifying a choice between consumer styles. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
...provides an invaluable argument for anyone who has ever scoffed at hand-me-down counterculture from the '60s... a spirited and exhaustive analysis of that era's advertising... -- Wired, Brad Wieners --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I remember an interview with a rock star of the 60s who boasted that by publishing his music the Establishment was laying the very seeds for its own destruction. Nonsense. Nothing truly subversive would ever be allowed to pass through those hallowed commercial halls. Frank's book shows just how insidious the Megamachine is in its cultural hegemony.
The dilemma the author addresses is a simple but important one: how does one enjoy the benefits of living in a prosperous, corrupt, and hypocritical society without feeling prosperous, corrupt, and hypocritical. It all changed in the late 60s. What was once called `white man's burden' suddenly became `white man's guilt'. Advertisers responded as they always have, by catering to people's needs. Give them what they want while doing their best to ameliorate the feelings of guilt. One of the consequences is that we have to face 158 different kinds of shampoo.
But there's another side to this story. Not all of us 80 million Boomers were so guilt ridden and socially conscious. For many the immediate response was revulsion over the hypocrisy of the counterculture. So for every anti-conformity ad during the period in question one can probably find as many instances of conformity-appeal, family values, American tradition and so forth. It's partially a class divide. Remember that over 70% of the population never gets a four year degree. And while this segment of society may not have anywhere near the amount of disposable income per-capita as their educated counterparts, they still represent a huge prize for corporate America. Consider the commercials that target the working class: Levis, Pick-up trucks, Marlboros, and the like.
The ad agencies changed in the 60s along with a young, gregarious, and affluent segment of society. This is not a startling revelation. But it's still a marvelous book. If you are my age you won't be able to help summoning up memories of all those idiotic, be yourself, and do-your-own-thing ads -- and of some other unpleasant memories, such as that ugly Volvo I used to drive...