The Conquest of Cool
The original text on the pseudo-radicalism of the elites . . . an expedition into the heart of darkness where capitalism and rebel culture come together in unholy union.
The Conquest of Cool is both the definitive study of the advertising industry during the 1960s and the first book to make the case that what passes for cultural radicalism isn’t radical at all. Specifically, it is the story of how the business world stopped worrying about conformity and embraced hipness as a healthy attribute of our consumer society . . . how rock ‘n roll became the soundtrack of acquisition . . . how counterculture became cultural orthodoxy. Also: Another piece in the weird puzzle of our present cultural order, in which it’s commonplace to hear business leaders explain their livelihood by referring to youth culture, extreme sports, rock music, and “revolution.”
The Conquest of Cool was a national bestseller and was widely reviewed when it appeared. The New York Times declared me to be “perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment, and certainly the most malcontent.” The reviewer for the Houston Chronicle described it as “an indispensable book that is so retro it’s the closest thing our culture has seen to hip. . . . Superb and immensely readable. . . . With The Conquest of Cool, Frank—brilliant, excoriating and wickedly funny—assumes the mantle of the preeminent cultural critic of his generation.” Jackson Lears, the great American historian, wrote that “This is a powerful and important argument. . . . The Conquest of Cool helps us understand why, throughout the last third of the 20th century, Americans have increasingly confused gentility with conformity, irony with protest, and an extended middle finger with a populist manifesto. . . . Frank deftly shows the myriad ways that advertising has redefined radicalism by conflating it with in-your-face consumerism. . . . His voice is an exciting addition to the soporific public discourse of the late 20th century.” Newsweek magazine included me in a list called “100 Americans for the Next Century” with the following description: “Frank is a leading Gen-X cynic. His favorite target: how corporate America forces conformity on the masses.”