In a world where more people know who Princess Di was than who their own senators are, where Graceland draws more visitors per year than the White House, and where Michael Jordan is an industry unto himself, fame and celebrity are central currencies. In this intriguing book, Tyler Cowen explores and elucidates the economics of fame.
Fame motivates the talented and draws like-minded fans together. But it also may put profitability ahead of quality, visibility above subtlety, and privacy out of reach. The separation of fame and merit is one of the central dilemmas Cowen considers in his account of the modern market economy. He shows how fame is produced, outlines the principles that govern who becomes famous and why, and discusses whether fame-seeking behavior harmonizes individual and social interests or corrupts social discourse and degrades culture.
Most pertinently, Cowen considers the implications of modern fame for creativity, privacy, and morality. Where critics from Plato to Allan Bloom have decried the quest for fame, Cowen takes a more pragmatic, optimistic view. He identifies the benefits of a fame-intensive society and makes a persuasive case that however bad fame may turn out to be for the famous, it is generally good for society and culture.
Primarily a look at the economic implications of our fame-driven culture, this compelling book, which reads like a long essay, also offers a philosophical meditation on the social and moral impact of fame on our public and private lives...[Cowen's] graceful prose and refreshing perspective on the occasionally bizarre effects of capitalism will be enough to engage thoughtful readers.
[This book] is a short but dexterous handling of the phenomenon of fame. Addressing the American obsession with such, Cowen avoids the rhetorical pitfalls of sweeping disregard and the dangers of excessive adulation.
Cowen's argument is broad-ranging, drawing from both classical and modern sources in ways that few authors would be equipped to do. It is intelligently and gracefully reasoned. It might persuade even some of the most severe critics of the current cultural scene to rethink some of their positions. There is an enormous amount of fresh thinking here on some extremely interesting and important topics.
The aim of Tyler Cowen's book is to solve some basic puzzles about fame using the tools of economics. This approach works splendidly. The questions he has chosen to address are among the most interesting one can ask about the subject; the answers he provides are chockful of counterintuitive implications, yet eminently persuasive. Even when the ideas are technical, the style is never less than lucid and is often very elegant.
Technology has increased the possibilities for being well known, and the willingness of social scientists to analyze it. The subject has been largely ignored by economists and is worthy of systematic analysis. This book is fun to read. It ranges widely and is laden with empirical examples and memorable anecdotes The arguments are provocative and thoughtful, with a little exasperation thrown in to keep readers engaged, sometimes enraged, and, in all cases on their toes.
- 320 pages
- 5-1/16 x 7-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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