Wiesing: Luxury

Lambert Wiesing, A Philosophy of Luxury, translated by Nancy Ann Roth, London: Routledge, 2019.

It has nothing to do with ostentation and need not be expensive. It has everything to do with inefficiency, wastefulness and impracticality. In this book, Lambert Wiesing sets out to simply describe luxury. Rather than praising or denouncing it, as most commentators have done in the past, he argues that luxury is an aesthetic experience that, despite its relationships to beauty, art, elegance, and more, is a separate phenomenon, irreducible to any other. For unlike the aesthetic experiences we have by seeing, hearing, or tasting — that is, by perceiving something — luxury is achieved by possessing something – a relationship between objects and human beings that philosophy has so far has largely ignored. Identified as a gesture of individual defiance, a refusal to conform to social expectations of restraint, efficiency, practicality and purpose, luxury allows the possessor to experience a unique self, to become aware of his or her own humanity. In a contemporary society increasingly insistent on rational, goal-oriented behaviour, the appeal of luxury grows stronger.