Synopses & Reviews
From airport terminals decorated like Starbucks to the popularity of hair dye among teenage boys, one thing is clear: we have entered the Age of Aesthetics. Sensory appeals are everywhere, and they are intensifying, radically changing how Americans live and work.
We expect every strip mall and city block to offer designer coffee, a copy shop with do-it-yourself graphics workstations, and a nail salon for manicures on demand. Every startup, product, or public space calls for an aesthetic touch, which gives us more choices, and more responsibility. By now, we all rely on style to express identity. And aesthetics has become too important to be left to the aesthetes.
In this penetrating, keenly observed book, Virginia Postrel shows that the "look and feel" of people, places, and things are more important than we think. Aesthetic pleasure taps deep human instincts and is essential for creativity and growth. Drawing from fields as diverse as fashion, real estate, politics, design, and economics, Postrel deftly chronicles our cultures aesthetic imperative and argues persuasively that it is a vital component of a healthy, forward-looking society.
Intelligent, incisive, and thought provoking, The Substance of Style is a groundbreaking portrait of the democratization of taste and a brilliant examination of the way we live now.
"A consumer advocate of a distinctly novel sort, Postrel defends our right to follow our bliss to the mall, pursuing beauty however we see fit; she also celebrates the vastly expanded options for doing just that in today's varied marketplace. Even when you want to quarrel with her, you're exhilarated by her challenge to preachy notions about the spuriousness of all manufactured delights." Tom Carson, The Atlantic Monthly
"This book preaches to the converted, needlessly exhorting the long-since addicted public to acknowledge the value of surface and appearance. Virginia Postrel is not an art critic or a design critic but an economics expert and a columnist, and her sense of the aesthetic dimension in material life seems to have sharpened up only recently because she has observed, and here records, a recent increase in that aspect of consumerism." Anne Hollander, The New Republic (read the entire New Reuplic review)
In today's world, making things look good is a growth industry. Whether it's sleek leather pants, a shiny new Apple computer, a modern suburban house, or a designer toaster, we make important decisions as consumers every day based on our sensory experience. The dawn of the 21st century is the age of aesthetics, and its impact is now being felt not only in the marketplace, but in the realms of politics, business, and culture, touching nearly every aspect of our lives.
In this penetrating work, Virginia Postrel shows that the allure of "look and feel" is both strong and disquieting. We are seduced by style, yet we distrust the senses and call them superficial. But the truth is: appearance counts, and aesthetic value is real. Drawing from fields as diverse as fashion, real estate, politics, design, and economics, Postrel deftly chronicles our culture's fascination with aesthetics and argues persuasively that it is essential for creativity and growth. Incisive, intelligent, and provocative, Look and Feel is a brilliant examination of the way we live now.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -227) and index.
About the Author
Virginia Postrel writes an economics column for the New York Times and is the author of The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. She lives in Dallas, Texas.