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The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value Hardcover – November 15, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Examining film and literary prizes' geneses, history and the hoopla that accompanies them, English parses the many ways awards and award ceremonies have become an institutionalized "game" that relies on the condescension and outrage they provoke among critics and contenders alike. He confines his study primarily to writing and film awards, but these provide more than enough fodder for him to produce a remarkably clear anatomy of the way prizes shape their respective worlds; he sagely notes the approximately 4,500 feature films released annually compete for about 9,000 prizes, and while the number of books published every year still outpace number of awards, literary awards have multiplied exponentially since WWII. Some passages are dense with philosophical references and theoretical jargon, but English tempers them with case studies and pop culture examples, including a lively dissection of the perennially maligned Booker Prize, that make his discussion more accessible. Despite the book's narrow scope-it focuses almost solely on judges and the judged, neglecting the effect on consumers-the book brings a refreshing perspective to a conversation usually dominated by reflexive positions.
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Review

Mr. English knows everything there is to know about the mechanics of prize-giving, from the appointing of judges to the globalizing of cultural prizes to the exploiting of prizes for further self-aggrandizement. As The Economy of Prestige makes clear, Mr. English has mastered the subject in little and large, and it is one full of interest about the way cultural life operates in our day. (Joseph Epstein Wall Street Journal 2005-10-31)

Ambitious...Reading [The Economy of Prestige by James English] feels like being in the company of a cultural code-cracker. His work shows that we hardly know how to think about art outside the rubric of awards...[English] is an astute guide down this dizzy rabbit hole. He reminds us of the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, who cries, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes'...English dissects the dishy politics and tawdry tricks, but the author is after much bigger intellectual game. He wants to understand how the awards-biz carries our cultural currency, creating our shared investments in what is art...The Economy of Prestige is rich fare for anybody who has ever been trapped at an awards banquet. It ought to win a prize. (Karen R. Long Cleveland Plain Dealer 2005-11-13)

Examining film and literary prizes' geneses, history and the hoopla that accompanies them, English parses the many ways awards and award ceremonies have become an institutionalized 'game' that relies on the condescension and outrage they provoke among critics and contenders alike...The book brings a refreshing perspective to a conversation usually dominated by reflexive positions. (Publishers Weekly 2005-11-01)

James F. English's compelling [book] offers a harsh view of the process of giving and receiving special prizes. Anyone who thinks that awards genuinely pay tribute to excellence in achievement should have their naivete shaken away with this often-startling book. (Phil Hall Hartford Courant 2005-11-27)

Intellectually shrewd and consistently entertaining. (Jim Holt New York Magazine 2005-12-19)

[This is a] frequently hilarious and gripping book...An anecdotal delight and an intellectual revelation. (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times 2006-01-08)

[An] ingenious analysis of the history and social function of cultural prizes and awards. (Louis Menand New Yorker 2005-12-26)

Did you know that there are more film prizes than there are feature films made every year? I didn't. Similar odd facts abound in this fascinating analysis of the business of prizes and awards: their meaning, their financing, their cultural machinery. English sets off at a brisk trot through the history of gongs, from the tragedy prize at Athens, through the Nobels, the Goncourt and Booker, to the Oscars and the sadly defunct alternative Hubby Awards, which featured 'Best Kung-Fu' and 'Best Mindless Sex Comedy' categories...I hope someone inaugurates a prize for Best Book About Prizes, and gives it to this one. (The Guardian 2005-12-31)

[English] has embedded himself in the public history of awards, emerging with a slew of entertaining anecdotes. (Howard Davies Times Higher Education Supplement 2006-01-20)

The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value argues that we've become an awards-crazy culture in a prize-drunk world. (Art Carey Philadelphia Inquirer 2006-01-23)

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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5
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Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2007
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Top international reviews

Lakshmi
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
Reviewed in India on January 26, 2019
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Ein Kunde
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book on Prestige, but not on the Economics of Prestige
Reviewed in Germany on December 20, 2014
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