What Price Fame?
By Tyler Cowen
(Harvard University Press, Hardcover, 9780674001558, 248pp.)
Publication Date: March 2000
List Price: $24.00*
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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.