Monday, September 5, 2016

Quartz, Steven - Asp, Anette (2015): Cool - How the Brains Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World

What is it about?

The book basically (though at places somewhat implicitly) says that the "traditional" microeconomic homo economicus is a gross oversimplification of human (economic, consumption) behavior.

Instead, Quartz argues that purchase and consumption choices are inherently social psychological phenomena. In other words, we all, e.g., signal aspired identities and group memberships through our choices of what products (or services) we purchase, adopt, use and discard.

Moreover, Quartz quite sensibly - and with substantial backup from disciplines such as evolutionary biology and psychology and neuroscience - argues that in many cases there is very little we can do about this; such behavior is hard-wired in us through evolution.

Was it good?

The book is good indeed, though in my case Quartz is "preaching to the converted".

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the book is its exceptionally broad disciplinary scope, as noted above. This, in a way, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, drawing support from a broad range of academic research domains certainly adds weight and credibility to the arguments Quartz advances. But on the other hand, such multifaceted discussion may at places come across a little heavy for the reader ("a bit less would have sufficed").

But all in all, the book is - because of this distinguishing feature - a wonderful learning experience.

The main take-away for me?

While I never have denied the invalidity of homo economicus model, the book certainly made me pay a lot closer reflective attention on my own purchase and product use behavior. As a result, I'm certainly more cognisant about "what do I signal" with what I wear and use, though my own perception about this may be quite different from what another person would think.

Who should read the book?

Once again, I believe that most people should read the book. The book is not anti-consumerism by any means, but I sincerely believe that most people could be "better" (also more economical) consumers if they were a bit more reflective about their consuming habits; i.e. why they consume what they consume.

The book on Cool

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