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The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness

Tuesday September 2003


Virginia Postrel Columnist and Commentator

From teenage boys with bleached blond hair to toilet brushes in designer cases, conscious style is spreading to places we never expected. Aesthetics—the look and feel of people, places and things—is becoming an increasingly important source of economic and cultural value.

In her keenly observed new book, Virginia Postrel examines the reasons for this trend.The result, very much in the socio-cultural tradition of David Brook’s Bobos In Paradise, is an examination of the way we live now. Drawing from fields as diverse as fashion, real estate, politics, design, and economics, Postrel delineates our culture’s aesthetic imperative. She not only shows that the “look and feel” of persons, places and things is more important than we think, but argues that it is a vital component of a healthy, free, forward-looking society. Against those who see style as merely commercial manipulation or social status seeking, she argues that the economic value of aesthetics derives from the deeper, more personal pursuit of pleasure and meaning.