Taste, status and authenticity – PowerPoint Presentation

ICS 392: Consumer Culture

Taste, status and authenticity

Created: October 14, 2019

Taste, status and authenticity

Coolness grew out of rebellion Politicized nonconformity against mainstream society and their status systemCoolness displaced social classAuthenticity displaced (is displacing) coolnessCoolness done in by frictionless information transferThe hipstream

Taste, status and authenticity

Rebel consumption died when it became a game anyone with an Internet connection and a decent job could play

Taste, status and authenticity

“Status seeking never disappears – when it is exposed to the light, it simply scurries away and hides until it can transform itself into a subtler and less obvious form” (p. 125). “You can only be a truly authentic person as long as most of the people around you are not. In many ways, the quest for authenticity is just a deeper and more all-encompassing variation on the quest to be cool. Where cool was about nonconformity and the rejection of mass society, authenticity is a root-and-branch reaction against the entire social, economic and political infrastructure of modernity” (p. 133)

Taste, status and authenticity

A form of distinctionSubtler and less obvious Authentic consumptionThe example of organic food

Taste, status and authenticity

Authenticity is also based on rebellionAgainst civilizationSpontaneous, risky and creativeOriginality and integrity

Taste, status and authenticity

Consumers seem to value it and want itLots of marketers (try to ) provide itConsumers can find it/foment it in lots of placesIt has a very rich history

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsThe rise of modernity brought about three things1) The disenchantment of the world2) The rise of the individual as the relevant unit of political concern 3) The emergence of market economy

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsThe rise of modernity brought about three things1) The disenchantment of the worldHumans once experienced the world as a cosmos with humans at the centerScience destroyed this

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsThe rise of modernity brought about three things2) The rise of the individual as the relevant unit of political concernDisenchantment stripped away the metaphysical foundations that justified inherited social roles (princes, queens, etc).

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsThe rise of modernity brought about three things3) The emergence of market economyThe consumer revolution

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsShortly after the arrival of modernity came the attendant malaiseCriticisms: Loss of place within society (and the universe)Social alienationLoss of meaning

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsJean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on the Arts and SciencesDiscourse on Inequality

Taste, status and authenticity

Historical rootsDenis Diderot and Rameau’s NephewThe nephew complains that in order to advance in the world, he must perform “the beggar’s pantomime” and assume various social rolesThe nephew is a bitter, antisocial nonconformist who rejects the values of bourgeois society.The nephew’s critique is a restatement of Rousseau’s critique of civilizationSee also Freud and Civilization and Its Discontents

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

“We don’t want our child to receive the sort of education that the government is concocting for us. We have got rid of the television and everything that seemed superfluous to concentrate on what is essential” – Mr. Lemacon

Taste, status and authenticity

Stirring in the souls of Americans a deep-felt need to reconnect with the truth of our lives and to disconnect from the illusions that everyone from advertisers to politicians tries to make us believe are real.“Collectively, we Americans might not know what ‘authentic’ is, but for the most part we know what it is not, and we know that we want whatever authentic might be” (Zogby, 2008).

Taste, status and authenticity

“Recognizing that authenticity is a positional good with a built in self radicalizing dynamic helps us make sense of a lot of the seemingly bizarre behavior that manifests itself as authenticity seeking” (Potter, 133).

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

For every consumer seeking authenticity, there is a marketer seeking to provide it.LevisStoried history Long time success: by mid 1990s they had 19% share and sales of $7 billionThen they missed hip-hop and attacks on both the low-end (Old Navy; Walmart) and the high end (Juicy Couture and Seven)By late 1990s: 12% share and sales of $4 billionReponse: low-end (Walmart) and high-end vintage: Cinchback Jeans $350, 1967 Beat-up $275

Taste, status and authenticity

“authenticity is like authority or charisma: if you have to tell people you have it, then you probably don’t” (p. 114) Markets by their nature are the opposite of authentic Markets: fake, planned, calculated and marketedAuthenticity: spontaneous, natural and innocent

Taste, status and authenticity

Where authenticity lurks

Taste, status and authenticity

Where authenticity lurks“Mason jars suggest resistance to the mass production of food and culture; they emphasize the values of self-sufficiency and community” This current incarnation of the Mason jar has a lot to do with the hunger for greater legitimacy: How can I be more real, and more unique in my realness?

Taste, status and authenticity

“I started buying Carhartt clothes when I moved to Montana and took up trail work. I think their clothes are really well built,“ one carpenter told a reporter from the WSJ. “In my perfect and naïve universe, where brands have meaning and meanings matter, only people like these should be allowed to buy Carhartt.” (Dan Neil, WSJ)

Taste, status and authenticity

My own Carhartt jacket was forever my sartorial entrée to the working class. Whenever I needed to pass among them on some journalistic assignment (sprint car racing in Knoxville, Iowa, sand dragsters in Oklahoma), I’d shoulder on the Carhartt and begin speaking in the hard, flat drawl of my youth (Dan Neil, WSJ).

Taste, status and authenticity

“As one blue collar brand after another – Levi’s, Wrangler, Doc Marten – has descended into galling hipsterism, co-opted by soft handed college students who wear their irony like John Deere baseball caps, Carhart has managed to stand apart”And then…

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

Taste, status and authenticity

“Finally, a pair of jeans that look like they have been worn by someone with a dirty job…made for people who don’t” (Mike Rowe, former host of the show “Dirty Jobs”).

Taste, status and authenticity

“But what is really driving the quicksilver character of the search for authenticity is the underlying competitive structure of the quest. That is, we should not blame those who are selling the authentic, but rather those who are buying” (p. 115).“Just as the phenomenon of keeping up with the Joneses needs to be blamed on the Jones for starting the competition in the first place, the one-way ratchet of the search for authenticity is the fault of those who set the bar, not those who try to meet it” (p. 135).