book spotlight: billionaire wilderness by justin farrell

Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and The Remaking of the American West is a book by Justin Farrell that uses ethnography to explore how super, duper, like incredinly wealthy, people think about the environment. Farrell hung out in Wymoing in an enclave of people who have made, or inherited, vast fortunes and he gets to understand how they see “nature” and use it.

The book is a lively and interesting exploration of a subculture that few people ever get to see. I’m quite impressed by his ability to gain access to research subjects. This is definitely an excellent contribution to the sociology of elites and it sits well next to the works of other sociologists of elites, like Lauren Rivera and Shamus Khan.

The main point of the book is that the ultra rich have used “nature” as a place they can buy and turn into a retreat that has highly symbolic value for them. The result is that you now have these enclaves where the ultra rich sit next to some very working class people. In a sense, the book might be an extension of a Bourdieusian analysis of conservation – conservation is simply another field where financial and symbolic resources for status competitions. But I’d also add that Farrell covers some more humanistic elements of the story as well. Wealthy respondents talk about the enclave as something that isn’t the same as buying another yacht or mansion, there’s definitely a desire for something more in life. While status competition is defintiely a big part of the story, it’s not the only part of the story.

So a thumbs up from me. Required reading for environmental sociologists, sociologists of elites and stratification scholars.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 4, 2020 at 12:17 am

Posted in uncategorized

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