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The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class
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Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett at Abbey's Bookshop,

The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett


9780691183176

Princeton University Pres


Social classes;
Sociology;
Business & Economics;
Popular psychology


Paperback

272 pages

$39.99
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How the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite, and how their consumer habits affect us all.

In today’s world, the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite. Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breast-feed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption - like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates. In The Sum of Small Things, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett dubs this segment of society “the aspirational class” and discusses how, through deft decisions about education, health, parenting, and retirement, the aspirational class reproduces wealth and upward mobility, deepening the ever-wider class divide.

Exploring the rise of the aspirational class, Currid-Halkett considers how much has changed since the 1899 publication of Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. In that inflammatory classic, which coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” Veblen described upper-class frivolities: men who used walking sticks for show, and women who bought silver flatware despite the effectiveness of cheaper aluminum utensils. Now, Currid-Halkett argues, the power of material goods as symbols of social position has diminished due to their accessibility. As a result, the aspirational class has altered its consumer habits away from overt materialism to more subtle expenditures that reveal status and knowledge. And these transformations influence how we all make choices.

With a rich narrative and extensive interviews and research, The Sum of Small Things illustrates how cultural capital leads to lifestyle shifts and what this forecasts, not just for the aspirational class but for everyone.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Warhol Economy and Starstruck . Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New Yorker, and Wall Street Journal. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons.

By:   Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 203mm,  Width: 133mm, 
ISBN:   9780691183176
ISBN 10:   0691183171
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   November 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Warhol Economy (Princeton) and Starstruck (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New Yorker, and Wall Street Journal. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons.


One of the Economist.com Wise Words 2017 Books of the Year in Culture The aspirational class gets a kick in the quinoa courtesy of Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's The Sum of Small Things. --Sloane Crosley, Vanity Fair Currid-Halkett's biting, often humorous commentary is not just a send up of the so-called 'coastal elites.' It's a trenchant analysis that combines economic and sociological evidence to describe major trends. --Dan Kopf, Quartz [A] thorough book.... Currid-Halkett argues that the educated class establishes class barriers not through material consumption and wealth display but by establishing practices that can be accessed only by those who possess rarefied information. --David Brooks, New York Times A remarkably fine-grained portrait of how the spending habits of Americans have evolved over the decades. --Economist


  • Short-listed for Economist.com Wise Words 2017 Books of the Year in Culture 2017
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