"The age of aesthetics, in all its pervasiveness and plentitude," writes Virginia Postrel in her new book "The Substance of Style." "Has come to bathroom cleaning. Every day, all over the world, designers are working to make a better, prettier, more expressive toilet brush for every taste and every budget. The lowliest household tool has become an object of color, texture, personality, whimsy, even elegance. Dozens, probably hundred, of distinctively designed toilet-brush sets are available-functional, flamboyant, modern, mahogany."
This is just one of the many interesting passages in Postrel's book. Thoughts like that are probably enough to make the anti-capitalist, anti-globalization crowd boil over with anger and despair. Designer toilet brushes? What about the workers? She names Naomi Klein, author of "No Logo" and fervent anti-globalization guru, by name for rallying against 'logos'. And logos are important indicators and forms of aesthetics.
"A world of undifferentiated products and places would not only be less pleasant; it would be more alienating and more confusing. Without aesthetic signals, it would be harder to find what we wanted or to complement our own personalities," writes Postrel.
One theme that underscores this book is how democratizing and liberating style is. And that is not as Naomi Klein would have you believe. She and those who protest globalization would have you believe that style is simply a dreaded tool of capitalism fooling people through advertising and dirty tricks. Thankfully, as Postrel writes, it isn't true.
What she does, so successfully, in "The Substance of Style" is to break down and understand why style matters, increasingly so, even for products that perform purely menial or functional roles and nothing else, like those toilet brushes. And if style and aesthetics matter for these seemingly trivial things, then it must go likewise for everything from politics to business, from naming your children to hair colors and styles.
And thankfully it is why the future isn't anything like what people used to imagine. "We citizens of the future don't wear conformist jumpsuits, live in utilitarian high-rises; or get our food in pills. To the contrary, we are demanding and creating an enticing, stimulating, diverse, and beautiful world. We want our vacuum cleaners and mobile phones to sparkle, our bathroom faucets and desk accessories to express our personalities. We expect every strip mall and city block to offer designer coffees, several different cuisines, a copy shop with do-it-yourself graphics workstations, and a nail salon for manicures on demand."