Divining Desire: Focus Groups and the Culture of Consultation


Product Details

$18.00  $16.74
OR Books
Publish Date
5.4 X 7.9 X 0.9 inches | 0.79 pounds

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About the Author

Liza Featherstone is a journalist based in New York City and a contributing editor to The Nation, where she also writes the advice column "Asking for a Friend." Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Ms., and Rolling Stone among many other outlets. She is the co-author of Students against Sweatshops: The Making of a Movement (Verso, 2002) and author of Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart (Basic, 2004). She is the editor of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton (Verso, 2016).


"In her wonderful book, Liza Featherstone helps us penetrate this 'culture of consultation'--and recognize that actually we are living in a culture of cooptation where weighing in is more of an illusion than a reality, one that helps legitimize the power of elites." --Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic "[A] brilliantly conceived and elegantly written book. Divining Desire is essential for anyone trying to understand how business and political elites connect with their desired audience--or fail to." --James Ledbetter, editor of Inc. magazine, and author of One Nation under Gold "In this deeply researched, slyly funny book, Featherstone takes us 'behind the mirror' to show us how the economic ritual of the focus group reflects our deepest, most secret political longings: not for better consumer products, but for a deeper role in our democracy. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of capitalism, economic life and social change." --Kim Phillips-Fein, author of Fear City "Focus groups--the desires, anxieties, and fears they reveal--have come to shape almost every aspect of our daily lives, from the products we buy to the politicians we elect. In her history of how the American psyche has been mined in the service of selling, Liza Featherstone lays out how the focus group has burrowed into our culture, becoming a crucial way for elites to explore and use the experiences of everyday people to their profit and advantage. An important, smart, revealing, and especially timely book." --Susan J. Douglas, author, Enlightened Sexism and Where the Girls Are "This compulsively readable book is not just about focus groups any more than Moneyball is just about baseball--it's about American inequality itself, and how giving strategic voice to people as consumers rather than as full citizens has shaped not just our products, but our poisonous policies and politics. Featherstone guides us with clearheaded argument and caustic wit through the often-mesmerizing history of elites listening to masses only to achieve their own capital, and pushes us to imagine what possibilities lie in using the market practice of listening for democratic power, and not just purchase." --Lauren Sandler, author of One and Only and Righteous "What's a focus group and why do you need to know what it is? Liza Featherstone's Divining Desire is a fascinating and timely look at the big business of asking Americans for their opinion, and gives us valuable and much needed insights into an industry few of us know anything about, but one that impacts everything from our politics to the products for sale on the shelf of our supermarket. It's a compelling and important book." --Helaine Olen, author, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry