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Status and Culture

Status and Culture

Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change

W. David Marx
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Solving the long-standing mysteries of culture--from the origin of our tastes and identities, to the perpetual cycles of fashions and fads--through a careful exploration of the fundamental human desire for status


All humans share a need to secure their social standing, and this universal motivation structures our behavior, forms our tastes, determines how we live, and ultimately shapes who we are. We can use status, then, to explain why some things become "cool," how stylistic innovations arise, and why there are constant changes in clothing, music, food, sports, slang, travel, hairstyles, and even dog breeds.


In Status and Culture, W. David Marx weaves together the wisdom from history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, philosophy, linguistics, semiotics, cultural theory, literary theory, art history, media studies, and neuroscience to demonstrate exactly how individual status seeking creates our cultural ecosystem. Marx examines three fundamental questions: Why do individuals cluster around arbitrary behaviors and take deep meaning from them? How do distinct styles, conventions, and sensibilities emerge? Why do we change behaviors over time and why do some behaviors stick around? The answers then provide new perspectives for understanding the seeming "weightlessness" of internet culture.


Status and Culture is a book that will appeal to business people, students, creators, and anyone who has ever wondered why things become popular, why their own preferences change over time, and how identity plays out in contemporary society. Readers of this book will walk away with deep and lasting knowledge of the often secret rules of how culture really works.


W. David Marx is a longtime writer on culture based in Tokyo and the author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style. His work has appeared in The New YorkerLapham's QuarterlyPopeyeThe New Republic, and Vox.


  • Publisher: ‎Viking (September 6, 2022)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Hardcover: ‎368 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎0593296702
  • ISBN-13: ‎9780593296707
  • Item Weight: ‎1.31 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎6.23 x 1.23 x 9.29 inche
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