The United States of Reinvention
Social Science/Popular Culture
209 pp. 6x9
$36.95 paper 978-0-8142-5169-0
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$94.95 cloth 978-0-8142-1093-2
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$14.95 CD 978-0-8142-9173-3
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“In all of his prolific scholarship, Toby Miller has shown a distinctive talent for blending rigorous and extensive research with an uncommonly expansive and textured understanding of popular culture. Makeover Nation is a brilliant and highly readable exploration of the uniquely American will-to-believe in the dream of commodified self-invention. Written in Miller’s inimitable blend of sophisticated cultural theory, panoramically wide-ranging interdisciplinary research, provocative insight, and scintillating personal voice, Makeover Nation promises to stand as a groundbreaking analysis of the contemporary commodification of the myth of the American Dream.” —Anne McClintock, Simone de Beauvoir Professor in English and Women’s Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Makeover Nation is a sharp and insightful critique of trends in the United States toward reinvention and makeover in the field of fashion and body, religion, remaking/controlling youth through drugs, and masculinity. Toby Miller is a gifted writer and this book is no exception. It is engaging and highly original and should be well-received.” —Douglas Kellner, George F. Kneller Philosophy of Education Chair, University of California, Los Angeles
Life is very much a project in the United States—but not a straightforwardly individual one. A duality of individual free choice and disciplinary institutional governance is the grand national paradox. Simply being—leading life without a bumper sticker avowing one’s elective institutional affinities—seems implausible in a country consumed by the makeover—the idea that what you were born as need not define you forever.
As Toby Miller writes in his introduction: “I come neither to bury the makeover nor to praise the makeover, but to criticize it, even as I stand alternately bewildered, amused, appalled, and attracted by it.” In Makeover Nation he does just that in a witty, no-holds-barred style. Miller looks at the power of various forms of knowledge about people and their emotions as they have been applied to the US population, from talk therapy to drug treatment. He is particularly interested in young people—in examining how childhood is constructed—and pays close attention to the much-favored (and overused) diagnosis and treatment of ADHD/ADD. He also focuses his attention on metrosexuals and right-wing Christians to disclose how these opposing groups manifest their drive toward self-creation. Miller believes that we must question the pleasures of reinvention even as we embrace them.
Toby Miller is chair of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.