This article analyzes two notorious photos of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage—one on their own, and one alongside Arron Banks, Gerry Gunster, Andy Wigmore, and Raheem Kassam—standing in a gold-plated elevator after Trump had won the US election. The article provides a cultural and political analysis of the plutocrats who are playing at being ordinary “winners,” or what it calls normcore plutocrats. Analyzing the symbolic and material contexts of these two images, it considers the physical context of the lift within Trump Tower; the tangled web of relationships uniting the men in the lift; and the first photograph’s later life as a social media meme. Asking how a depiction of glittering luxury can be presented as populist revolt, it discusses how elites draw on discourses of meritocracy, of “traveling up the social ladder,” to validate their actions. That Trump and friends are not on a ladder but in an express lift symbolizes the attempted velocity of this phase of corporate meritocracy. In the process the analysis provides a multilayered contribution toward understanding how these normcore plutocrats in gold elevators have achieved and extended their power.
NORMCORE PLUTOCRATS in GOLD ELEVATORS: Reading the Trump Tower Photographs
Jo Littler is a reader in the Department of Sociology at City, University of London. She is part of the editorial collective of Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, an editor of the European Journal of Cultural Studies, and author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power, and Myths of Mobility (2018).
Jo Littler; NORMCORE PLUTOCRATS in GOLD ELEVATORS: Reading the Trump Tower Photographs. Cultural Politics 1 March 2019; 15 (1): 15–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7289458
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