The Conquest Of Cool Summary

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Ethan Young Professor Skilton 10th November 2014 Book Review Number Four Thomas Frank: The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. The University of Chicago Press, 1997. ISBN: 978-0-226-26012-9 In The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, Thomas Frank argues that although 1960s counterculture is well-remembered, little study has been given to a similar revolution that shook American business as well. Countercultural youth found unlikely and unwanted allies in the businesses of advertising and men’s clothing. But it was not belief in counterculture’s ideas that caused these industries to embrace counterculture, but love of profit. These companies saw…show more content…
Its overall connectivity was solid, and the author used supporting evidence, particularly the period advertisements reprinted at the end of chapter four, to illustrate his argument very effectively. But I found far more about this book to criticize than to praise. For one thing, the whole thing reads like one long essay rather than a proper book; the author stated that Conquest of Cool started out as a dissertation, and unfortunately it shows. The book’s scholarly origin also means that it can be painfully dry reading. It is clearly meant for a narrower audience and is not necessarily something that would be enjoyed by the public at large. But what bothered me the most about Thomas Frank’s work was that his argument often seemed to border on an actual conspiracy theory. Throughout The Conquest of Cool it is often implied that counterculture was not only welcomed and preyed upon American advertising, but that Madison Avenue might have been responsible for its very creation: “to analyze the machinations of advertising or record executives suggests that one believes the public to be mere…pawns of a malevolent and conspiratorial industry” (Frank, 19). That is the attitude the book had toward readers and critics both: it treated them as mindless sheep, and elevated the author to the role of a benevolent, enlightened shepherd who had graciously consented to lead the flock. To me, both of these are an almost unforgiveable breach…show more content…
It does this by explaining how big business underwent its own counterculture revolution even as it co-opted the movement and turned it into one of the very moneymaking schemes its followers despised. In the end, this was done so well that the influence of counterculture in mass media still remains visible in the twenty-first century. But while his argument may seem valid, Frank is hindered by his own writing style, which may be off-putting to the reader and might even alienate other historians who might otherwise agree with him. His smug tone might not make him a whole lot of friends, but far worse is his tendency to veer toward conspiracy theory. Frank comes far too close to that for comfort, and if he gets any closer it could discredit him or prove seriously damaging to how seriously his work is taken by future

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