2020 Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit Princeton University Press.
Published in Chinese by East China Normal University Press and Japanese by Misuzu Shobo.
This is a study of conspicuous consumption among the new global leisure class. It follows the global party circuit to map out the empirical bases of Veblen’s seminal concept and the micro and organizational dynamics that normalize ostentation in the context of extreme wealth concentration. Building upon classical economic anthropologies of the potlatch and feminist analyses of the traffic in women, the book shows how conspicuous leisure is built upon a gendered economy of labor in which women’s bodies are assessed against men’s money. While critiquing the structures that uphold economic and gender inequality, the book outlines women’s agency and the seductions of inclusion in the exclusive world of elite consumption.
Read an excerpt in The Economist's 1843 Magazine
"One of my favorite books of the year," Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"Five New Books to Read in May, " Fortune.com
“The Non-fiction Edit: What to Read Right Now,” Tatler Magazine
"A fascinating read," Lynn Barber, The Spectator
“Very Important People depicts a complex world of exchange and exploitation, and warrants praise for doing so without passing predictable moral judgement. More than offering a mere window into the exotic lives of others, Ashley Mears emphasizes themes that should resonate with us all: the labour of marginalized others that lurks behind so much status-seeking consumption, the risks of conflating work with fun and friendship, and the sad fact that “girl power” remains as oxymoronic as ever.” - Times Literary Supplement
"The most revealing exposé of money, power and sexual politics since Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy Bunny," The Times of London
"...unexpectedly riveting," The Telegraph
"... rich entertainment. It also offers intellectual insight into this age’s expression of what Thorstein Veblen, the US sociologist, dubbed conspicuous consumption.” – John Gapper, Financial Times
"Champagne sociology," Times Higher Education, UK
Clubbing in the New Gilded Age, The Washington Examiner