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A lively analysis of personal fashion giving particular attention to aspects of gender identity

The Fashioned Self

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Joanne Finkelstein

"Stories of face lift, necktie and dwarfs are woven into a brilliant critical discussion of the modern manufacturing of the Self. The book is a very valuable addendum to the sociological traditions set by Elias and Foucault."
Agnes Heller, New School for Social Research, New York

This book explores the dichotomous relationship between fashion and the self —between physical appearance and personal identity—and analyzes the social and political consequences of fashion and conduct. Joanne Finkelstein contends that in advanced industrial societies, now dependent on the availability of an external "quick-fix," people have lost sight of their real needs and qualities. Her discussion of the emergence of a consciousness of the "inner" self as distinct from the commodified self is entwined with a history of fashion from the sixteenth century to the technologically produced image paraphernalia of the modern fashion industry.

Finkelstein concludes with a challenging theoretical argument: what are the affects upon the nature of social life when appearance is thought to be synonymous with character? People begin to believe that the body politic can be altered artificially, and they gain a feeling of power over themselves that later may be redirected to the public realm. This transformation could limit a true understanding of the nature of modern society.

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Reviews

"This is a very important book. It starts where Goffman and Baudrillard ended. The Fashioned Self probes the surface expressions of the material self, arguing that we postmoderns are no more sophisticated than our predecessors in our emphasis on appearance and image as the measures of the self and its soul. We fail reflexively to discover ourselves, to the degree that we allow the simulacra to govern the public and private definitions of who we are. There is a certain poverty of experience here which Finkelstein brilliantly uncovers."
Norman K. Denzin, University of Illinois

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Contents

Introduction

Part I: The Physiognomic Body
1. Character as Immanent in Appearance
2. Refining Appearance, Improving Character

Part II: Signs of the Modern Self
3. The Face Lift
4. The Necktie
5. Fashionability

Part III: The Fashioned Self
6. The Trial of Character
7. The Self as Sign

Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

Joanne Finkelstein teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Monash University in Australia, and is the author of Dining Out.

Subject Categories

Sociology

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