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The Idea of Luxury

The Idea of Luxury
A Conceptual and Historical Investigation


Part of Ideas in Context

  • Date Published: June 1994
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521466912

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About the Authors
  • In this far-ranging and innovative study Christopher Berry explores the meanings and ramifications of the idea of luxury. Insights from political theory, philosophy and intellectual history are utilised in a sophisticated conceptual analysis that is complemented by a series of specific historical investigations. Dr Berry suggests that the value attached to luxury is a crucial component in any society's self-understanding, and shows how luxury has changed from being essentially a negative term, threatening social virtue, to a guileless ploy supporting consumption. His analytic focus upon the interplay between the notions of need and desire suggests that luxuries fall into four categories - sustenance, shelter, clothing and leisure - and these are exemplified in sources as diverse as classical philosophy and contemporary advertising.

    • The first comprehensive analysis of the idea of luxury and its role in the determination of social order
    • Uses a wide range of data from Plato to contemporary advertising
    • A wide-ranging study relevant to history, political theory, philosophy and the social sciences
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Berry's monograph, written throughout with great clarity, provides keys to an understanding of the origins of these contemporary issues. His research will prove useful to historians of ideas and also to specialists in ethics, legal philosophy, economics and politics. The Oyster Club, The Scottish Journal of Philosophy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 1994
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521466912
    • length: 292 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 154 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Preliminary Essay:
    1. Luxury goods
    Part II. The Classical Paradigm:
    2. The platonic prelude
    3. The Roman response
    4. The Christian contribution
    Part III. The Transition to Modernity:
    5. The de-moralisation of luxury
    6. The eighteenth-century debate
    7. The historicity of needs
    Part IV. Politics, Needs and Desires:
    8. Luxury and the politics of needs and desires
    9. Luxury, necessity and social identity.

  • Author

    Christopher J. Berry, University of Glasgow

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