Twin Quotes for Late 2010

“It’s not just the fact that the elites have all the wealth in a society, but that they are disconnected from the problems. If the rich and powerful still live the good life as society is spinning downhill, they are not motivated to solve the problems.” (Jared Diamond)

marie antoinette

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj saw in the third quarter a “decoupling” of the luxury and prestige markets, also including LVMH and Elizabeth Arden, from the mass marketers. And the results extended beyond beauty, as Macy’s and Nordstrom showed increases in customer traffic year over year last quarter even as the U.S. Walmart division last week reported continued year-over-year declines in traffic for the quarter ended Oct. 31, albeit improvements from the prior quarter.

“The luxury consumer is shopping again, and we are seeing our strategy contribute to … prestige beauty growing faster than mass in many parts of world,” said Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda on a conference call with analysts last month. He pointed to U.S. beauty sales in department stores and Sephora growing 4% last quarter, according to NPD Group, while sales in mass channels grew only 1%.  (Advertising Age, “Prestige, Luxury Products Thrive as Mass Market Sputters,” November 22, 2010)

3 Replies to “Twin Quotes for Late 2010”

  1. You ended “Consumer Trap” with a depiction of an alternative socio-political system that countered the dominant corporate capitalism highlighted by these twin quotes. “Consumer Trap” was written quite a while ago. How would you say the intervening years of “change” have done to foster that alternative vision? On a scale of 10 with 10 being happy times, I’d say we are stuck at a .5, and when you wrote the book, I’d say we were at a 1. Given the amount of space you devoted to that alternative system, I would guess your score would have been much higher back them but care to revise that score now?

  2. I generally agree with your numbers, Martin. Interesting you should raise this question, since Diamond tells his interviewer in the link quoted here (Edmonton Journal) that he’s 51/49 opti/pessi. I presume he says that in public but privately worries it’s much worse than that.

    If I were to re-write the end of the CT book, I’d certainly say that nothing whatsoever positive has been done since then, and the material and cultural basis for alternatives is rapidly dwindling. In the age of Citizens United, one wonders how anybody in the USA will ever be able to communicate about real problems, let alone deal with collective solutions.

    Of course, very few of history’s big breakthroughs have been foreseen, and I will only stop fighting when the odds truly reach zero. I have a son and other people I care about, so la lucha continua!

  3. That’s fascinating. I agree with your point about the possibility that Diamond’s self-described opti/pess umbers reveal more about his professorial need to cling to official “optimism” since he has a position in society to protect, students to teach.
    Not that his psychic gyrations matter at that much – but for each of us, who think we are now in the know about grave matters like global warming, economic inequality, workplace foolishness, needless death and suffering of badly placed fellow humans and animals, we have to establish some form of acceptance – along with enjoying whatever privileges, even if ultimately part of the destruction, that have accrued our way.

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