Interview: Virginia Postrel on The Power of Glamour


MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ, and we’re talking today with Virginia Postrel, the former editor of Reason magazine, who now writes for, and is the author of the brand new book, The Power of Glamour.  It’s published by Simon and Schuster, and available from and your local bookstore. And Virginia, thanks for stopping by today.

MS. POSTREL:  Great to be with you.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Virginia, your first book was 1998's The Future and Its Enemies, which explored the clash of worldviews in American politics and was built on your work at Reason Magazine.  However, since then, you're next two books, The Substance of Style, and now The Power of Glamour, have explored the importance of aesthetics.  What inspired the shift in your interest?

MS. POSTREL:  Well, in my mind, if not in the world's mind [laughs], these books are all related to each other.  They are first of all, all about -- or one of the major themes in all three books is the source of econ -- the sources of innovation and new forms of economic value and how those are discovered and why it is that things that some high-level planner might see as unimportant or not objectively valuable, are, in the minds of consumers, in fact, valuable.  So that's one theme that carries through all the books.

And another thing about all three books -- and the third one is called The Substance of Style -- it was in 2003 -- is that they are all, in my mind, part of not a libertarian project, per se, but something that is in the classical liberal tradition.  That includes Adam Smith, David Hume, Friedrich Hayek, who were not only interested in the questions of the proper role of government, but were interested more broadly in the question of what does it mean to be a human being in a commercial society and a liberal society.  They were interested in issues of psychology and taste and aesthetics, certainly in the case of Hume and Smith, and issues of sociability and issues of rhetoric and persuasion.

And those issues also interest me.  I think they're -- you know, the role of government is very important, but it's not the only thing in the world that is important.  And it's not the only thing -- it's not the only concern of the broader classical liberal tradition, the intellectual tradition with which I identify.