Solving the long-standing mysteries of culture—from the origin of our tastes and identities, to the perpetual cycles of fashions and fads—through an exploration of the fundamental human desire for status.
Marx’s first book — an investigation of the Japanese influence on the global fashion industry — succeeded precisely because of his narrow approach. Here, his comprehensiveness threatens to render Status and Culture a dull but effective teaching text. In his effort to cover everything — from conventions to signaling to complex questions of identity, counterculture and race — the author’s thesis gets lost ... Marx is engaging when tracing the evolution of products, such as the democratization of chocolate and Perrier from gourmet delicacies to deli staples. More plodding is his examination of those aspirational behaviors that gel into mass phenomena, like the Beatles 'mop top.' While it’s interesting to learn that expensive purebred dogs are a relatively recent passion, a curiosity that became popular, the fact feels slight when juxtaposed with observations about race, which in turn gets relatively cursory treatment. But he’s done his homework, collating the zingers and wisdom of some of our best cultural critics, sociologists, and philosophers ... Marx is most convincing when addressing the perennial question of whether money can, in fact, buy class ... At times, you wish Marx would indulge in juicier class voyeurism ... Fans of the genre may wonder about certain choices ... In his effort to get everything in, Marx often presents his information blandly.
... cannily reasoned ... Marx consults the work of dozens of formidable thinkers--anthropologists, historians, philosophers, sociologists--and quotes them liberally. But to further bolster his points, Marx is at least as likely to furnish examples from pop culture as from so-called highbrow culture ... offers plenty of revelations.
Marx thoroughly explains complex subjects, breaking down the necessary elements and bolstering his points with research and examples that are both plentiful and entertaining ... A crucial takeaway from the book is that status isn’t going to get less important anytime soon, so it’s imperative that we are more proactive not only in lessening inequality in legal and economic spheres, but also being more conscientious of how we confer status in our interactions and what we value ... Hefty but compellingly readable—essential for anyone desiring a deeper understanding of status inequity.