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Status & Culture

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The book lays out how individuals in pursuit of status trigger the cultural mechanisms behind taste, identity, fashion, art, class, subcultures, retro/canon, and the current state of Internet culture.

If Ametora was a specific case study of "how culture happens" and how trends form, this new book is a deep look into the universal principles of cultural change — all with status as the motor.

First published January 1, 2022

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About the author

W. David Marx

4 books60 followers
W. David Marx is a long-time writer on culture based in Tokyo. He is the author of "Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style" (2015) and "Status and Culture" (2022). Marx's newsletter can be found at culture.ghost.io.

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5 stars
108 (26%)
4 stars
160 (39%)
3 stars
108 (26%)
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23 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
365 reviews18 followers
May 31, 2022
Tough to rate. In terms of thoughts and ideas, I'd rate it 4.5 stars--it really provided a terrific framework from which to view the primary animating forces driving our sociopolitical divisions. In terms of readability, it's more like 3-3.5 stars--it's capably written, but often circuitous with overlong, densely packed sentences. I often lost the thread trying to navigate passages. It's also repetitive at times.

I'm glad I read this. It enhanced my range of lenses from which to view and understand humans and society.
260 reviews11 followers
September 28, 2022
This is five stars with two qualifiers, which are explained below.

I enjoyed Marx's previous book, "Ametora," and if you did as well, then I anticipate that you will enjoy "Status and Culture". "Status and Culture" seeks to explain the various forces that shape what we call culture. Marx methodically provides a taxonomy of the various facets that influence culture, status being foremost. He then explores how differing forms of status can shape the evolution of culture: how certain things become classics, while other things vanish as mere fads. If you had asked me to explain the interplay of culture and status before reading this book, I would have been hard pressed to provide the cogent overview contained in "Status and Culture". From that standpoint, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a primer on what drives our cultural tastes.

That said, this book contains one glaring blind spot. Marx observes that today the ubiquity of content on the internet has caused taste to be more egalitarian. For example, the rockist attitude that all forms of music are interpreted through a rock prism has been replaced by "poptimism," an attitude that all forms of music, are worthy of praise. While Marx acknowledges the existence of social media as a factor in flattening hierarchy, he ignores how tastes have been shaped and altered by the AI in social media platforms themselves.

A smaller quibble. Early in the book, Marx describes an interview of Beck conducted by Thurston Moore on MTV's "120 Minutes" as an example of someone signaling their bona fides with a particular audience. Marx quotes Beck as saying that the first record he bought was "Haino or Xanadu," "Haino" supposedly referring to Keiji Haino, an experimental Japanese guitarist, and thus a signal to avant-garde noise weirdos that Beck is one of them. Actually, Beck was referring to Heino, a traditional German singer with distinctive white blonde hair and dark glasses who was held in ironic regard by hipsters who were probably Beck's core audience at the time. (Heino appears on the cover of a Beck single from that time period.)

Profile Image for Emily Carlin.
293 reviews38 followers
November 7, 2022
Posting on Goodreads has negative status value but here I go anyway:

I would have liked for this to cover 50% less material and for there to be no talk of "the Grand Mystery of Culture." Also sort of strikes me as a compendium of just-so stories. But at the same time ... I'm 100% on board.

The most interesting section was the last one, where he talks about what the internet is doing to culture. He points to two forces that are making economic capital (as opposed to social/cultural/educational) more important than ever. First, easy and rapid access to information (i.e. if everyone on TikTok can instantly know X thing is cool, it no longer has status value to know it). And also the predominant "omnivorism" of taste (i.e. frowned upon to make "low culture"/ "high culture" value judgments -- or really any judgment on what another person might find entertaining):

Omnivorism also may have a dampening effect on the cultural ecosystem. If the “friction” of status struggles is an important creative force, omnivorism defuses tensions within the social groups most likely to create new conventions: namely, artists, the creative class, the media, and subcultures. Much great art and culture arose from righteous indignation toward bad taste, commercialist kitsch, and the conservative establishment. By eliminating these as legitimate targets for criticism we create much weaker, less meaningful conventions.

Anyway, I don't think that this is a particularly useful set of ideas to keep front of mind in day-to-day, at least from a "living a peaceful and integrated life" standpoint. I don't really agree with this bit in the conclusion:

All analysis of cultural trends should thus first work through an innovation’s status implications. In 2019 Vox identified mini Australian shepherds as the “dog of the moment,” attributing their popularity to “portable, apartment-friendly size and striking good looks.” Many dog breeds are handsome and small enough for apartment life; the article neglected to mention that mini Australian shepherds may also serve as status symbols. Just because no one who was interviewed for the article openly admitted their status seeking doesn’t mean we should take their alibis in good faith.

I think this will land us in weird Spiderman pointing at Spiderman meme territory / twist us up into knots as we try to engage directly with status while also -- unavoidably, inevitably, perpetually -- pursuing it. Not to say status isn't a valuable lens..just not sure that it would do good things to someone's psyche to make it the primary one.

Marx: "We have been cursed to understand the mechanisms of culture too well, making earnest taste nearly impossible." After reading this book I'm feeling very, "I have been cursed to understand the mechanisms of status too well, making earnest existence nearly impossible." Luckily I have a bad memory so I'm sure I'll be back to my unselfconscious pursuit of status in no time! 🥂
Profile Image for Erin Bomboy.
Author 5 books19 followers
March 9, 2023
Congratulations to W. David Marx, who took an extremely interesting subject—the intersection that manifests between culture and status—and spun that gold into straw. This may be the world’s most boring term paper masquerading as a substantive book. He literally defines nouns (so many nouns) and then supports them via a bunch of examples that mostly seem chosen to demonstrate Marx’s status as an intellectual with lots of time on his hands. The examples include downtown art stalwarts like Trisha Brown as well as more prosaic choices such as the Beatles.

One could only wish he’d collaborated with someone who could write more conversationally and with a touch of creativity. (Calling anybody from The Atlantic.) This leaden, stultifying prose will probably come in handy to the college kids assigned to read this as it lulls them off to sleep.
Profile Image for Weronika.
176 reviews
October 11, 2022
I pre-ordered this book inspired by a hyper-enthusiastic review by Michelle Goldberg of the NYT, whom I've aways considered a very insightful, super intelligent person. What did Marx do to her to have her write a praise for this sh*t? Kidnapped her cat? She owes him money? I haven't read a book so devoid of any new, original ideas for years and I regularly come across a lot of published mediocrity. Out of respect for Goldberg I read this until the end, hoping for I don't know what. What a waste of time and money (and trees!).
Profile Image for David Montgomery.
247 reviews22 followers
January 19, 2023
A superb and indispensable book for understanding culture, both our own and more broadly.

"Status and Culture" offers two key tools to the reader. The first is its thesis: that the inchoate idea we call "culture" is best understood as an omnipresent struggle for status, a zero-sum commodity whose desire is universal, even if the methods of obtaining it vary wildly. The second is a simplified model to understand how status struggles are waged. The author (it seems misleading to attribute this idea to "Marx") posits four key groups: "new money," who obtain status through conspicuous consumption; "old money," who don't need to scramble for money and instead obtain status by mastering elite culture codes; "professionals," who acquire status through their mastery of new and privileged information; and lower classes, who lack both financial and cultural capital and are left to pursue status either through imitation or more privileged classes, or on a smaller scale within subgroups. But it is often these un-privileged sub-classes, the author argues, who originate the new fashions that diffuse into broader society through the intermediary of more privileged classes.

This can sound a little trite summarized so briefly, and even the author would certainly admit his model is a simplification of the real world. But the book is written with both care and clarity, simultaneously accessible and useful.

If I had any critique, it's that its final full chapter — speculating on whether the model Marx has spent the entire book laying out is changing due to the internet — is the weakest part of the book. It feels like cover-your-butt hedging, even if that wasn't the intent. Regardless, as opposed to the confidently developed theses of the rest of the book, this final chapter is on shakier ground, since the themes it discusses have not yet played out. Perhaps the internet is creating a new system of status after centuries (or more), but the author doesn't come to any firm conclusions. The doubts expressed here could probably have been dealt with in a sub-section rather than occupying an entire chapter. But this is nit-picking — even lopping off this final chapter, "Status and Culture" is superb.
Profile Image for Drew Penrose.
54 reviews3 followers
January 24, 2023
I don't know that I left 100% convinced of the author's theory - it sometimes felt unfalsifiable or even circular - but honestly I just loved reading this. I found it delightful, thought-provoking, and a useful frame for understanding a lot of what happens in culture.
371 reviews
February 12, 2023
Really thoughtful sociological analysis that examines stuff that seems obvious in hindsight if you put an ounce of thought to it but isn't ever really obvious at first glance. I like when he goes over the history of status and culture and how they're all related sociologically. It helped me understand why sneakers are a phenomenon amongst my students. The last chapter on taste is my favorite though, especially taste in the age of the internet where monoculture has effectively dissolved. I'm someone who still stands by some metrics of taste, in that there have got to be some works of art that are objectively better than others no matter how subjective that is, because I cannot fathom putting John Grisham on the same plane as James Baldwin.

As much as the book is clear, it is sometimes a slog to read because it feels like it borders on the academic in points. I would have enjoyed some more Klostermanian or Wallace-ian style writing that is both analytical and easy to read. Still, it's worth reading and using this book to explain just how status-infected culture is. Everything we own or everything we do signals some marker of status. It's one of those books that lets you develop a new lens with which to see the world, which is a super invaluable tool.
Profile Image for Jessica Lim.
21 reviews
December 2, 2022
Not as insightful as I had hoped for but nice to have this topic explored and presented as a mostly cohesive narrative; quite repetitive in places as others have noted. Not so sure I agree with the author’s conclusion bemoaning the decline in value of cultural capital as access to information doesn’t always necessarily lead to the surfacing of particularly valuable insight.
Profile Image for Luciano.
163 reviews248 followers
March 4, 2023
Admirable effort to link economics, psychology, sociology, and cultural studies; dense, but never dull, free of hypocritical sensibilities. Solid 4.5/5.
Profile Image for taylor.
12 reviews
February 24, 2023
a fascinating examination on the intersection of status and culture (duh), mostly from the sixties to the present. I really enjoyed the author’s inclusion and choices of pop culture examples and found this a pretty funny read for a work that constantly borderlines on the academic. my favorite aspect of this book has to be the end sections on poptimism and monoculture, and the conclusion positing that conscious consumption can pave the way out of the banal “let people enjoy things” ethos of today.
Profile Image for Dan Cassino.
Author 4 books9 followers
November 10, 2022
This is an engaging, pop culture savvy extrapolation of Veblen, Bourdieu and other sociological studies of status and social capital. The core insights- that trends are largely driven by the desire to imitate people with greater levels of social capital, and that those with high levels of social capital need to adopt alternate strategies in order to signal status- are nothing new, but they’re perfectly well integrated, and the use of examples from pop culture is likely to make them more engaging to lay readers. Is it some brilliant new synthesis? No, but it’s a perfectly acceptable repackaging of the sociology of consumption literature, designed to appeal to the sort of pop social science readers who have made Gladwell a star.
85 reviews23 followers
September 9, 2022
If you are shallow and status obsessed, then this is the book for you.
W. David Marx fails to question (or prove) the theory that all human beings crave status over others; that all human beings give or withhold respect for others based on their perceived status; and that one person's gain in status is automatically another person's loss.
His basic premise is vile and goes completely unchallenged (or convincingly supported).
Unlike baboons, human beings are capable of treating everyone with compassion and respect, regardless of how "low status" they're supposed to be.
Being of low status does NOT have to mean being any less valuable than any other human being.
According to Marx, we humans can't help ourselves. We have no choice but to degrade those less fortunate than ourselves, and to worship those who are greedy and "high status" no matter how despicable they may be as people.
W. David Marx should speak for himself when it comes to valuing people based on their "status".
As human beings, we have an obligation to rise above the behavior of insects and apes, and to treat every human being with the respect and compassion we ourselves desire.
We are more than capable of this, despite what status obsessed fools prefer to believe.

Profile Image for Rilka.
34 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2023
I read this through a tech-adjacent book club... it fits comfortably into the popular social science category in the way it reads: informal, snappy, fun pop culture anecdotes, tidy bullet points at the end of every chapter. For that reason I find it hard to take W. David Marx at his word about the critical stakes of this book: that it genuinely puts forth a grand unified theory of how our innate desire for high status drives cultural change. My impression (a loosely-held impression, to be sure, I mostly did not have my close reading glasses on) is that he makes few meaningfully falsifiable or disputable claims; he doesn't go far enough to shift any paradigms! But I think as an ambitiously-scoped survey of the field and as a provocation to view questions of taste, art, trends, etc. through the lens of status it is exciting and successful. It's dense with references to influential thinkers and ideas. And I loved the framing of artistic value as relating to being able to resolve open questions in art, which felt like a missing piece in my own understanding of the distinction between "enjoyable art" vs. "art that contributes to the discourse".
Profile Image for Ryan.
977 reviews
October 31, 2022
W. David Marx's Status and Culture arrived at just the right moment as I've recently developed an interest in mechanical watches and as I just watched the new Cate Blanchett film, Tar. Both of these media invite readers to consider to what extent beauty exists separately from status.

Is a Rolex Explorer, for example, beautiful, or is it just a way of saying "I have money?" Maybe we just find people who can credibly make that declaration attractive, though that doesn't seem beautiful if true. It might be useful to contrast the Explorer against Tudor's Ranger (google them and a comparison image will be your first hit). Almost every Tudor design is a version of a Rolex sold for a lower price, but they're nevertheless well made watches. Tudor has produced a variety of popular models, and many people especially love the Black Bay diver.* And yet, maybe every time a Tudor owner looks at their Ranger they think, however quietly, "it would be nice to have a more iconic model of this design." Or maybe those who own an Explorer are just rationalizing their status obsession. What a tangled web.

We often say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but maybe it's also in the class of the owner/ beholder. W. David Marx invites readers to imagine two men, standing next to each other. Both of them are wearing leather shoes, trousers, a button down, and a jacket. The man on the right's clothes show signs of wear. Who is higher class? In this case, it might be the man on the right if he is rich and is using his expensive but worn clothing to signal that he was born into money and really couldn't care less about his rival upstart. The wealthy man looks at his Explorer and doesn't need to ask whether it's actually beautiful because he can afford it, a Daytona, and an entire line of Tudors if he so pleases. His rival's crisp new clothes, even if they're all the same brands, reveal him to be little more than an avaricious, try-hard yuppie. And if we take Maslow seriously, don't we see the richer man in this case as more "self actualized?" Again, I can't help feeling a tension between my respect for the try-hard and my envy of the man who was born without a care in the world.

Is art ever beautiful in a way that is separate from these games, hierarchies and status signals? In Tar, there is a moment at the end of Mahler's Fifth Symphony that does seem beautiful, and in fact the main character says "beautiful" just after the audience has a moment to think "isn't this nice." Although we see Tar as a , maybe she is right to believe (or claim to believe) in something transcendent and redeeming in art. Or, again, is this all our collective rationalization of an illusion?

Regardless, I don't think the solution is to pretend like there's an escape from these games. Durkheim famously argued that people formed religions to organize into groups, and it seems that we do something with art and fashion. Our styles and interests bind us into groups of punks, office workers, blue collar workers, and internet fandoms. Almost every rebel style eventually seems to form its own hierarchical structures, and sometimes those norms are very awful. I'd still like to believe in concepts like beauty and authenticity, but perhaps they're easily discussed but actually very precious.

Anyway, my command of the philosophy of beauty is pretty limited and remains open to revision, but that's one reason I enjoyed Status and Culture. I think it would read productively alongside Haidt's Righteous Mind and Robin Hanson's Elephant in the Brain. I'm sure I'll recommend it often.

*(I dislike nearly every diver, excepting Longines' Legend divers, especially the green dial with a bronze bezel that is, sadly, only released in a size too big for me.)
Profile Image for Jeff.
147 reviews4 followers
March 19, 2023
A difficult book to summarize and more of a cultural commentary than an argument well supported by research. I suppose that is the nature of the subject matter, although I did regularly wonder if the author's claims were actually true, or even the kinds of claims that could be true or false.

Nonetheless it was consistently interesting and adjusted how I view some things. Our status position relative to peers is far more central to our preferences, our taste, our goals and values, than I previously understood. It explains things I previously found puzzling, like why so many of my neighbours have torn out perfectly serviceable asphalt driveways to put in interlocking stone or concrete ones. Now I see it's a status signal of both taste and success in life (a costly signal because, well, it's quite expensive and even wasteful in such a relatively new neighbourhood). I also understand why most people say they would rather have a small increase in income than a large one so long as their increase exceeds their peers - this is essentially a choice between moving up or down in status.

I had hoped the author might connect the theory to the "luxury beliefs" idea that has been in circulation for a few years, but he does not. He discusses the present day but that section comes across as sort of a lament that no one has good taste anymore and there won't be any more good art because, I don't know, there is no special access to knowledge thanks to the internet and, uh, for social justice reasons or something elites have decided everything is fine. I had trouble following that part. As to luxury beliefs, it will have to be an exercise left to the reader, although the theory advanced here certainly provides a framework for thinking about that.

The author addresses the question whether you can just escape status games altogether and choose not to play (you can't) and whether we could distribute status more equally (he says that you can but what he describes is just a redistribution of status from some groups to others or, rather, individuals from some groups to individuals from some other groups - the very nature of his theory seems to me to be that status is by its very nature relative, he even gives examples of how citizens of Soviet Russia managed to find ways to establish status hierarchies in a nominally egalitarian economy).

One of those books that gives you an idea you start to see everywhere once you have it.
47 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2022
An examination of fashion, art, an culture from a Marxist status and class aware perspective. WDM argues that fashion changes are all driven by desire to acquire higher status either within the popular culture or at large or in specific subcultures.

In this way the violent Teddy Boys of 1950s England sought to escape their lower class despair through emulation of the Edwardian dress of the British aristocracy. The later 1970s Teddy Boy revival cemented the position of brothel creepers and drape jackets in the British fashion cannon but was non violent and did not threaten the mainstream establishment in the way the 50s Teddy Boys did.

Various items once the preserve of the upper classes have been emulated and trickled down to successively lower classes: chocolate, automobiles, televisions, oxford cloth button down shirts, North Face apparel, etc.

WDM clearly appreciates the idea of Veblen goods and explores the rise in conspicuous consumption driven by the progeny of oil sheiks, dictators and water barons coming into contact with TikTok and Instagram. These youths WDM argues are consciously seeking global social capital, as they are already locally incredibly well known.

As soon as the lower classes have sullied the cultural cache of an item or art, the cultural elite switch codes to something less accessible. Thus the triumph of abstract art over kitsch, Acronym over the Harrington jacket, microfoams over whole food meals, organic foods over inorganic, Kombucha over Coke, etc.

The lower classes may seize upon abandoned symbols of the upper and lower classes and in doing so make them their own. See the move of the Adidas Country from prep kids to the NY hip-hop scene. Borrowing can also move in the other direction, see Timberlands, Carhartt, and Americana fashion originally worn by bozuku.

Briefly explores rockism, poptimism and the Gen Z triumph of neophilia over the Gen X neophobia and love of the analogue.

Could do with about 80pc less King's Royal Lassie and Stu Sutcliffe references.
Profile Image for Krolby Kagan.
68 reviews10 followers
December 18, 2022
The author argues that the quest for status changes culture. The elite adopt certain forms of fashion and etiquette that get imitated by people of lower status who want to increase their own status. The elite don't want to be associated by people of lower status, so change their own cultural markers again. This process goes on and on.

Some young people have no chance of becoming high status in mainstream culture, so they create their own subculture where their own conventions mark high status.

The chapter about status and culture in the internet age is the most interesting. The author says cultural capital is irrelevant for status nowadays. Nobody thinks you're special if you know obscure cultural facts, since anyone can look stuff up on the internet in a minute. People are also more tolerant of different views, in a way that there is no hierarchy ascribed to different cultures. Because of the diminishing importance of cultural capital, status is determined by economic capital.

I agree with the author that "Life is more interesting—and arguably better—when more people play in symbolic complexity and find surprising ways to break conventions." and "If society chooses to celebrate economic capital as the supreme virtue and to reject the celebration of any symbolic complexity as an oppressive tool, we should expect further creative stagnation."

I don't think cultural capital is dead though. The majority of people don't care about high art, but that was probably so 100 years ago as well. A lot of people only consume complex and symbolic literature/movies. The majority of people don't ascribe higher status to these people, but in their own subculture the person who has read more obscure works is certainly viewed as more important than some guy who just started.
Profile Image for Amy.
79 reviews
January 26, 2023
Much of this was stuff I already knew, just from being human for so long, but it was fun to read. The quotes were fantastic throughout. But the part I really enjoyed was the chapter on the internet age. I learned a lot of new terms:

Poptimism (love that word!): "An openness to the creative possibilities of all culture, even the songs of teen idols produced by formula in profit-driven sonic laboratories."

Omnivore taste: "All cultural snootiness is now tedious...Distaste has become distasteful."

Trends: "Today a look can become dowdy within weeks. Righteousness about any particular trend is foolish when we may soon be equally righteous about its opposite."

Ultraindividualism: "For everyone to follow their hearts, all idiosyncratic choices must be tolerated." (This is the type of tolerance that makes the Jack Black character in High Fidelity have a conniption fit.)

Retromania: "Where the avant-garde aimed to be seminal, retromania was a cultural vasectomy." Example: Eight live-action Spider-Man films between 2002 and 2019 based on a comic book character who debuted in 1962.

Neomania: The very appeal of TikTok is its "mediocrity" and its lo-fi production values. "[This] makes neomania more inclusive, but the effect is to disconnect it from the twentieth-century paradigm of cool."

According to the author, young people nowadays don't know about the past and don't care, because they're not trying to define themselves against anything. When Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million, he said: "When you say 'Abstract Expressionism,' literally, I have no idea what the hell that is."

Nonetheless, "rightous indignation toward the past remains a strong creative engine, even if the historical specifics are unknown." Yeah, that describes a lot of young people. :o)
16 reviews
October 15, 2022
I been reading Marx since the days of Neojaponisme/Neomarxisme. For those long time readers, Marx is still the Gen-Xer that moans the loss of curator ship and people with taste propagating trends (its a 90's thing). He brings up Beck and gyaru again, lol.
But, this being Marx, this is still an excellent book that TRIES to analyze Status and culture of mankind. If you don't mind the premium university philosophy English, then its weaves an analytical tale of the ages.
Still if you are like me and think about it, there are many head scratches. He is alluding (but never with total confidence) that humanity will have always high/low status. But how about times during existential crises like wars and such? How about cultures in other countries ? And he will use examples from predominant western sources on western consumption to illustrate his point. How about status and culture in Iran? Ukraine? Taiwan? Maybe it was too much in already ponderous book
At least he acknowledges that Gen-z is a break from millennial in the capitalist consumption.

If you are a smartypants/smartass then this is book is for you so you can show off to your friends that understand status and culture. Yes this book is a tool to become high status, all according to plan......

Profile Image for Keith Baker.
6 reviews
January 22, 2023
This isn't a pedestrian book. Rather academic but never dry, the language and style are at a level not often seen today. This isn't a passive or easy read and, though you won't constantly be reaching for a dictionary, Status and Culture requires active engagement from the reader.

Author W. David Marx begins by showing concern (if not obsession) with status traces back to our earliest steps up the evolutionary ladder. As with many attributes - the taste for sugar, fats, salt, and other necessities that are counterproductive in large quantities - our forebears who lacked a healthy concern with status failed to thrive. As success (generally speaking) begets success, prosperity gaps widen and what was high status in yesteryear is middling today.

Thus the need for some to constantly chase and redefine what conveys status, and the role of culture. What is edgy today becomes mainstream tomorrow.

Marx lives in Tokyo and writes about fashion, culture, and music from there. His earlier book is Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style. His newsletter, "Culture: An Owner's Manual" is available here: https://culture.ghost.io

Profile Image for Amelia.
371 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2023
I hope Marx knows the incredible coincidence of his name and writing a book about status and culture, but I'm sure somebody must have pointed out the humor to him at some point.

Marx offers various anecdotes, statistics, and tales in order to offer his perspective on status and culture. He wonders, how do humans perpetuate status? What is culture? Where do we divide high- and low-culture? If we transgress these boundaries, how can we transgress them authentically? Is there such a thing as authenticity?

This was a book that I wish I purchased so I could underline it. But the problem would be that I'd have to underline just about everything. This book is so dense and well-plotted. Each topics flows easily into the next, and it's clear that status and culture will be forever intertwined. Marx argues that there will always be some sort of hierarchy, even in sub- and counter-culture groups, even within groups of those who try to reject status and culture.

Overall, this is a book that left me chewing for thought, but boy, it was a lot of food! Definitely something I'd be interested in rereading in a while.
Profile Image for Morgan.
176 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2023
⭐️ finished: 1/23/23
⭐️ rating: 8/10
⭐️ takeaway: The author theorizes that status-seeking for both individuals and groups is the driving force behind cultural production and preservation. The book’s byline, “How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change,” sums up the different areas of focus. Overall, I enjoyed listening to this, although it did get a bit repetitive at times. The author’s coverage of the modern era was useful, if not insightful, and described the cultural stagnation of the past decade or so in terms of “cultural omnivorism”, with some interesting hypotheses about how TikTok might disrupt (or continue) that pattern. The book solidly packages more traditional social philosophy and critique (Durkheim, Veblen, Bourdieu) into a pop-culture-friendly reference book in the style of Malcolm Gladwell and Jonathan Haidt.
Profile Image for Chris Boutté.
Author 8 books145 followers
November 8, 2022
Surprisingly, this is by far one of my new favorite books on status. Learning about status is one of my favorite topics, but I was hesitant to read this book for a while because I assumed it was more about trends than the sociological aspect. W. David Marx did an incredible job balancing the two, which blew me away and made it one of my new favorites. In this book, you’ll learn about status as well as class struggles and how different trends separate the wealthy from the rest of us. You’ll also learn about the randomness of what gets trendy, and why it’s so strange that we put such an emphasis on following the tastemakers and what they do.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re interested in this topic.
Profile Image for David Casey.
141 reviews1 follower
December 13, 2022
2 1/2 stars, really. Ugh. There is a lot of interesting stuff in here — Mostly things that were either part of my understanding of the world or nearly in my mind but hazier. The chapter on the current state of culture in the internet age was most thoughtful. But the author has a way of blocking the narrative with a constant series of definitions and, possibly worse, quotes from a wide array of sources that are often clunky and not particularly illuminating. These quotes make it feel more like a term paper than a book written for public consumption. ALSO, the repetitive use of the same examples… Sigh.

Anyway, I don’t necessarily regret reading it, but I couldn’t in good conscience recommend it.
Profile Image for Martijn.
1 review
October 5, 2022
I would've given it 6 stars if I could.

At the start of 2022, I read Ametora and loved it. However, while it was an interesting read and window into a specific culture, I wanted more from David. Which is exactly what he delivered here. I generally think that culture (and great design) is massively undervalued in day-t0-day life, but was never able to put into words, why this is and how it is that we do not appreciate (or understand) products from Apple, Music from Kendrick & Fashion from Thom Brown. This book gave me an incredible toolbox of cultural ideas by compartmentalizing all the thoughts I've had about the shifts in culture (& and how they are related to status) that have been happening, especially with the internet in the last couple of years.

I love it!
Profile Image for Brandur.
283 reviews7 followers
February 22, 2023
I was a huge fan of the author's last book _Ametora_ and dove into this one with zeal, but to my great surprise, almost didn't finish. Even by the end, I still didn't really understand what this book is about. It's the world's most preeminent collection of little anecdotes of music, movies, and culture, weaved together into an encyclopedic canvas of impressive breadth, but despite the litany of factoids, there's no purpose to the whole thing. No conclusion, no thesis, no raison d'être, just cultural references ad nauseam with an implication that there's some great wisdom below the surface. Recommendation: try _Ametora_ instead.
Profile Image for Serra Abak.
1 review
September 27, 2022
I enjoyed the deep exploration of status and the idea that it affects and shapes every part of what we consider culture. I disagreed with some parts but enjoyed the perspective. However, it’s very long-winded and repetitive. I found my eyes glazing over as I reread the same point over and over again. Sometimes I lost track of what the point was supposed to be among the copious amount of examples. The book could have used better planning.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
137 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2022
All taken together, the fashion cycle from elite distinction to laggard passive adoption demonstrates exactly how individuals’ pursuit of status on a micro level leads to cultural change on a macro level. And as long as non-elites are able to imitate elite conventions, status seeking will always change the culture.

Also see: https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art...
Profile Image for Denton.
178 reviews
October 13, 2022
Status and Culture is surprisingly thorough and thoughtful, and is one of those books where I kept finding myself taking notes on the chapters.

The writing isn't anything special--it reads like someone was assigned a particularly long book report--but Marx did a good job pulling out especially interesting ideas and concepts from the others who have studied the space.
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