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Moving towards new forms of social success
John'W. Leigh, TA
Southem Illinois University at Carbondale


Social success is something of an enigma. Its source, or indeed, what it actually is, has escaped generations of thinkers and academics. From the bourgeois figure of the 18th and 19th century literature, through to the soft-winner of the 2000s,iociety;s ideal of success has changed a great deal, and this evolution shows no signs of abating.

Social success, soft-winner, social ideal, bourgeois, legitimation, cultural studies

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Social success historically borrows from several sources. It's all a question of a subjective, evolutionary, and eminently cultural perspectivet. ln some societies, social success is even effectuated through a transformation of the body: some will display the opulence of their household by flaunting the portliness of their form2; others still will set themselves apart from the working class (at least those who work outdoors) by staying in the shade, preserving their paleness.

to home, the capitalist system for the production of wealth has also generated multiple ways of displaying success. Thus, the "bourgeois" figure is ubiquitous in lSth and 19th century literature3. This last point imposes its stature
Closer through the weight
paternalism to electoral engagement) and through the expression of a certain ostentationa with the invention of "luxury", which was not at the time an industry in itself. This is also a success which inherits from itself, and assesses itself in terms of "patrimony".

of political responsibility (from

In the 1980s, a new archetypal figure of success gradually emerged, notably once globalization of the economy and "financialisation" took hold: that of the arrogant traders, shamelessly flaunting his quickly earned fortune with little ethical qualms. He conjures up the image of the trading robot6 (or the "raider" in the words of Edward Lewis), ultra adapted to the system he serves, embodying the high-flying "winner", with a toned physique, prepared for any moral, familial or social sacrifice necessary to secure the lifestyle characterised by his excesses. This kind of success does not spawn further success, quite the contrary: it is the kingdom of quickly earned money. And quickly spent: the benchmark is no longer patrimony, but rather

l Marshal Shalins, Culture and Practical Reason University Of Chicago Press (February
15, 1978)

Evans-Pritchard's Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford University Press, (June24,1976) 3 Revolution and reaction in nineteenth century French literature, Georg Morris Cohen
Brandes, Russell

& Russell (1960)

Beckert, S 2001 "Propertied of Different Kind: Bourgeoisie and Lower Middle Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States" in Burton J. Bledstein and Robert D. Johnston (eds.), The Middling Sorts: Explorations in the History of the American Middle Class Routledge. 'Think Like a Winner! , Walter Doyle Staples, Wilshire Book Company (March 1993) 'Success and Survival on Wall Street: Understanding the Mind of the Market, By Charles W. Smith , Rowman & Littleheld Publishers, lnc. (December 2001)
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the "extemal signs of wealth"7. This example still persists in its vulgar guise under the name bling-bling8.

The excesses of this arrogant and materialistic winner brought about, throughout the 1990s, an inverse trend. The system alarms, its meaning escapes the individual, and it prefers to give up on the bitter competition for wealthe. The ideals of social success are, in themselves, less developed, and we think of them less readily in the private sector, often considered a refuge. This is the era of cocooning, of "fooding"l0, of refocusing on the home (in terms of decorations, furnishings...). A sort of frightened, childish regression, leading one to cower within a 1O0-mile radius of their homelt. This is also the era where the necessities of decline and ecology expand rapidly and decisively, to the point of becoming a ncw summons weighing on behaviour, and imposing on them its negative and anxious filter that some have dubbed "eco-fatigue"I2. More recently, we have seen a more mature kind of social success emerge, within the enlarged social classes, that some commentators have called "soft-winner" or "windy-winner"13, in reference to a more flexible and ethereal idea, to their status, and insofar as re-writing the surfing rulebook, to the speed of a motorbike with "wind in their hair". Peter Meiskins and Peter Whalley (Cornell University) get on to this subject of the "peaceful revolution"to. This phenomenon keeps a check on itself largely through the impulse of the huge entry of women amongst the

'Jean-Pascal Daloz (2003), Ostentation in Comparative: Culture and Elite, in Dr Fredrik Engelstad (ed.) Comparative Studies of Culture and Power (Comparative Social Research, Volume


Emerald Group Publishing Limited

'Rap Music and Street Consciousness (Music in American Life), Cheryl L. Keyes , University of Illinois Press (March 5, 2004) 'The Sociology of Elites, Michael Hartmann, T & F Books UK; I cdition (January 29,
2008) to Consumer unit types and expenditures on food away from home, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Winter, 1995 by Louis G. Pol, Sukgoo Pak 1l Eat Where You Live: How to Find and Enjoy Fantastic Local and Sustainable Food No Matter Where You Live, Lou Bendrick, Skipstone Press (September 30, 2008 ) " http :// " Putting Work In Its Place: A Quiet Revolution, Peter Meiksins , Peter Whalley , Cornell University Press (August 31, 2004) 'o Putting Work In Its Place: A Quiet Revolution, Peter Meiksins , Peter Whalley , Cornell University Press (August 3l ,2004)
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of success remains professional levels of successl5. Even if the material dimension itself principally negatively charged, this new way which is emerging characterises in relation to Previous methods.
relationship with the Firstly, the "soft-winner" no longer maintains an ostentatious will be integrated less material objects supposed to embody his success. These to create a rift between artificiallyiâ irr,o tri, àay-to-day life, and will no longer aim
the winner and the others.

his private life with his Furthermore, the soft-winner no longer contrasts success at work for him if professional life. Strictly speaking, there would not exist in terms of his friends or this had to take root in a sacrifice in his personal life,
family.Inthesamewaythatfeminismtaughtwomentonotacceptasemithe winner of the 2010s does fulhlment which would confine them to the home17, his existencel8' not accept success that will amputate him from apartof

is much more liberated Additionally, and these aspects are related, the soft-winner predecessors' His from political correctness and ideological dogmas than his perspective, for example' doesn't conscience fiom an ecological and citizenship summonses that lead to make the best of the multiplication of the prescriptive that he can have a behaviourle. Wonied about the planet20, he also knows "nii6.n take a ride in a sports car (like Leonardo Di Caprio promoting the Tesla bath or prius hybrid) without really putting the planet in Roadster, in addition to his Toyota in these fields as in the political danger by himself. The soft-winner looks for, but accepts neither guilt nor domain, the intermediate and reasonable "third ways",
easy and demagogic formulae.

predecessor (including its Finally, this "soft-winner", contrary to his bourgeois
10 (Research in the Sociology of Work) JAI ', The Transformation of Work, Volume Press; 1 edition (March 28,2001) (Gender Relations Paths to Pleasure in Hobbies and Leisure '6 Hedonizing Technologies: university Press; 1 edition (June 9, in the Americ) Rachel p. Maines The Johns Hopkins

2009) Writings, Miriam Schneir ,Vintage (June 28' 1994) ', Feminism: The Essential Historical J. Bôrôcz' Pergamon; 1st edition ,, Leisure Migration: A Sociological Study on Tourism,
(December 6,1996) A critical Essay, Koula Mellos, Palgrave Macmillan 'n Perspectives on Ecology:

(December 1988) Macauley The Guilford Press; I ,o The Minding Nature: Philosophers of Ecology, David edition (March 29, 1996)
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variant the bohemian bourgeois), refuses to take himself seriously in terms of his attitudes, his consumption choices and his icons. In cultural terms, for example, he is a "multi-consumer": capable of frequenting art galleries or the screens of a public cinema, and listening to Haydn and Bach as much as Beyonce or Michael

Thus the adaptive ability of the upper classes to the problems of the representation of their own success is extremely important. These upper classes constantly manage

to reinvent their imagination of

legitimization22, their own "weltanschâuung", giving back the original meaning to the theory of Karl Marx, who indicated that the primary strength of the dominant classes was knowing how to impose their own scale ofvalues to the rest ofsociety.


The Plural Actor, Bernard Lahire, HUP, 1999

"Language and Symbolic Power, teee)

Bourdieu, Harvard University Press (December 12,

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