1st Edition

The Evolution of Luxury

ISBN 9780367351229
Published September 25, 2019 by Routledge
182 Pages

USD $46.95

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Book Description

This book offers a unique analysis of how our definitions of luxury have changed over the ages, and with that the role and actions of both suppliers and buyers of luxury products. It traces the way luxury was seen as avarice and emblematic of morally corrosive behavior in past societies, to being viewed in more virtuous terms as the inevitable outcome of structural changes that legitimize the acquisition and display of wealth. It examines the origins of the shift from criticism to acceptance, and traces these changes to fundamentally different notions of what constitutes the basis for social order.

Whereas pre-industrial hierarchies cloaked inequality in various secular and sacred guises to mitigate its presence, capitalism justified and reified inequality as a measure of individual success and initiative through interdependent market behavior. The result of this transformation is that status markers have become aspirational tools as hierarchies became porous and self-identity less ascriptive.

Correspondingly, as demand for luxury became legitimized, the supply side underwent dramatic changes. Such changes are explored fully in the sectors of fashion, art and wine. As demand for high priced and scarce goods in each of these sectors has increased, in each case key actors have manipulated markets to purposefully either consolidate their pre-eminence or manufacture the requisite scarcity that affords them canonical status.

The demand for and supply of luxury goods is now global; consumers seeking validation and affirmation of their status whilst producers engineer scarcity. Luxury is seen not only as good; it is virtuous, its demand possibly insatiable and extremely profitable.

Table of Contents

List of Tables


1. Introduction

    Luxury fashion

    Market for art

    Fine wine

    Individuals, organizations and globalization

2. Luxury in historical context

    Luxury as vice

    Christianity and luxury

    Money, markets and morality

    The advent of capitalism

3. Industrialism, materialism and the birth of a consumer society

Culture of consumption


Home as domestic refuge and emblem of success

The dawn of mass consumption

Conclusion: Reconciling old and new

4. Mass production, mass consumption and new consumers of luxury

Mass production and mass consumption come of age

More money for workers to buy things

Selling the acquisitive lifestyle

Rethinking status

Inequality and materialism

What are people buying?

5. At Home in the Fields of Luxury: From artisan production to global brands

    Luxury branding

    Luxury goods firms

    The business of fashion

    Consolidation and growth

6. Art: From aesthetics to investment grade collateral

Art’s changing role

    Market intermediaries: Auction houses and dealers

    Modern art and the new marketplace

    Revitalized auction houses and dealers become galleries

    Is art a good investment?



7. Fine wine: Creating luxury in a bottle


    Evaluating wine

    Wine’s early history

    Quality control

    California’s early wine history

    Napa’s rebirth

    Cult Napa: luxury wines from the new world


8. Conclusion: Pilgrims on the luxury road



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Ian Malcolm Taplin is Professor of Sociology and International Studies at Wake Forest University and Visiting Professor at Kedge Business School, Bordeaux. He is the author of numerous articles and books on the organization of work in the clothing industry and the evolving structure of markets in the wine industry in Napa California, North Carolina and Bordeaux. He is the North American Editor of the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management.