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The Conquest of Cool

Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


While the youth counterculture remains the most evocative and best-remembered symbol of the cultural ferment of the 1960s, the revolution that shook American business during those boom years has gone largely unremarked. In this fascinating and revealing study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined—and even anticipated —by such unlikely allies as the advertising industry and the men’s clothing business.

“[Thomas Frank is] perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment.”—Gerald Marzorati, New York Times Book Review

“An indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Frank makes an ironclad case not only that the advertising industry cunningly turned the countercultural rhetoric of revolution into a rallying cry to buy more stuff, but that the process itself actually predated any actual counterculture to exploit.”—Geoff Pevere, Toronto Globe and Mail

The Conquest of Cool helps us understand why, throughout the last third of the twentieth century, Americans have increasingly confused gentility with conformity, irony with protest, and an extended middle finger with a populist manifesto. . . . His voice is an exciting addition to the soporific public discourse of the late twentieth century.”—T. J. Jackson Lears, In These Times

“An invaluable argument for anyone who has ever scoffed at hand-me-down counterculture from the '60s. A spirited and exhaustive analysis of the era’s advertising.”—Brad Wieners, Wired Magazine

“Tom Frank is . . . not only old-fashioned, he’s anti-fashion, with a place in his heart for that ultimate social faux pas, leftist politics.”—Roger Trilling, Details

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 08, 1997 – Hoping to tap the youth dollar, in 1968 Columbia Records claimed "The Man Can't Bust Our Music." That same year, a sports-coat manufacturer urged buyers to "Tune in. Turn on. Step out" while so attired. Such ads have become infamous, proof of both capitalism's limitless capacity for co-optation and the counterculture's decline from radicalism to market share. But, as this bristlingly intelligent work documents, the story is a good deal more complicated. Frank, editor of the underground cultural-criticism journal The Baffler, stops short of claiming that advertising invented the counterculture, but he adroitly illuminates the intricacies behind familiar stories about the '60s by revealing how completely these ads, aimed at the hip consumer, harmonized with admen's changing values as well. Indeed, rebellion on Madison Avenue often preceded rebellion on campus. In accessible, muscular prose, Frank traces agencies' revolt against inflated '50s jargon ("Quadra-Power Roadability") and creation of aggressively hip spots that simultaneously mocked consumer culture's empty promises and sold consumption-as-rebellion. Today, that style dominates the marketplace; every ad hastens to preempt viewer skepticism with a sneer of its own--but also assures him or her that "this" product is an exception. Though occasionally repetitive (we don't need to hear every adman's organizational theories), this book is frequently brilliant, an indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer. FYI: Frank and Baffler managing editor Matt Weiland have selected articles from the magazine's first decade in Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler. (Norton, $15 paper 256p ; cloth $25 -04621-4)
The Conquest of Cool
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  • $18.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Oct 21, 1998
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Seller: Chicago Distribution Center
  • Print Length: 322 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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