Authenticity is the new luxury?: Market myths and the reproduction of consumer culture

2015-08-06T10:51:59Z (GMT) by Jennifer Smith Maguire
The paper examines the construction of the myth of luxury in the specific case of champagne. Champagne has a global and long standing reputation as a luxury product; yet changes in recent decades have challenged both its status as a prestige product, and established notions of what constitutes an elite champagne. Drawing from interviews with champagne producers and an analysis of media representations of champagne, the paper examines how—and to what effect—the myth of luxury is constructed. Combining a semiotic approach to myth with a cultural field approach to the study of consmer culture, the paper provides an overview of the champagne field and its contextualizng factors: structural properties and changes in the market; a new nexus of producers, consumer tastes and sites for the public affirmation of champagne’s status; and media texts that circulate a field-¬‐specific discourse linking champagne to good taste. The analysis identifies, first, how champagne’s product myth of luxury is anchored in particular material and symbolic properties. Second, the analysis disentangles two different articulations of the meta myth of luxury: that of exclusivity and authenticity. These two articulations are typically conflated with particular organizational modes of production, creating an either/or flexibility to the meta myth of luxury, and raising both radical and conservative implications of the possibility that authenticity is the new luxury.

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