What Price Fame? by Tyler Cowen

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In a world where more people know who Princess Di was than who their own senators are, where Graceland draws more visitors per year than the White House, and where Michael Jordan is an industry unto himself, fame and celebrity are central currencies. In this intriguing book, Tyler Cowen explores and elucidates the economics of fame.

Fame motivates the talented and draws like-minded fans together. But it also may put profitability ahead of quality, visibility above subtlety, and privacy out of reach. The separation of fame and merit is one of the central dilemmas Cowen considers in his account of the modern market economy. He shows how fame is produced, outlines the principles that govern who becomes famous and why, and discusses whether fame-seeking behavior harmonizes individual and social interests or corrupts social discourse and degrades culture.

Most pertinently, Cowen considers the implications of modern fame for creativity, privacy, and morality. Where critics from Plato to Allan Bloom have decried the quest for fame, Cowen takes a more pragmatic, optimistic view. He identifies the benefits of a fame-intensive society and makes a persuasive case that however bad fame may turn out to be for the famous, it is generally good for society and culture.


About Tyler Cowen

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Tyler Cowen is Professor of Economics at George Mason University.
Published March 29, 2000 by Harvard University Press. 320 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Cowen certainly makes clear the uncoupling of fame from merit and virtue—"commercialized fame, by directing fame away from moral merit, frees ideas of virtue from the cult of personality"—but he doesn't make a compelling case for why that’s such a good idea, despite his contention that commercial...

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Publishers Weekly

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Primarily a look at the economic implications of our fame-driven culture, this compelling book, which reads like a long essay, also offers a philosophical meditation on the social and moral impact of fame on our public and private lives.

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Project MUSE

is bound to separate fame and merit to a large degree" (163), and that the modern production of fame promotes, rather than suppresses, greater creativity and diversity.

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