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Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture

John Seabrook
June 10, Sunday

For more than a century, the elite in the United States distinguished itself from consumers of popular, or mass, culture. Highbrow vs. lowbrow was the language through which culture was translated into status – the pivot upon which distinctions of taste became distinctions of caste. Then the old distinction between the elite culture of the aristocrats and the commercial culture of the mass public was torn down, and in its place was erected a hierarchy of hotness. Nobrow is not culture without a hierarchy, but in Nobrow commercial culture is a potential source of status, rather than the thing that the elite defines itself against. John Seabrook

The opposition between high and low culture, good and bad taste, can no longer be applied to contemporary culture. Cultural production today is governed by the same marketing criteria of fashion and commercial worth that are applied to commodities ranging from cars to clothing and interior design. The traditional hierarchical relationship between high (elite) and low (mass) culture has been replaced by a common, horizontal field of the ‘nobrow’.

In his book, Seabrook identifies the new cultural landscape of the ‘nobrow’. In his terms, society today is dominated by MTV music culture, George Lucas and Star Wars, the media – in particular The New Yorker – Kurt Cobain and Snoop Dog, where what is ‘good’ means popular.

John Seabrook will be present at the official launch of the Russian edition of Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture on 10 June 2012, as part of the 7th Moscow Open International Book Festival at the Central House of the Artist.

John Seabrook

John Seabrook has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993. He is the author of Deeper: My Two-Year Odyssey in Cyberspace (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture (Knopf, 2000) and Flash of Genius and Other True Stories of Invention (St. Martin’s, 2008). His work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Travel+Leisure and The Village Voice. Seabrook has taught non-fiction writing at Princeton University. He lives in New York City.

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