City Research Online

Normcore plutocrats in gold elevators: reading the Trump Tower photographs

Littler, J. (2019). Normcore plutocrats in gold elevators: reading the Trump Tower photographs. Cultural Politics, 15(1), pp. 15-28. doi: 10.1215/17432197-7289458


This article analyses 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. Analysing 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 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 ‘travelling up the social ladder’ to validate their actions. That Trump and friends are not on a ladder but in an express lift symbolises the attempted velocity of this phase of corporate meritocracy. In the process the analysis provides a multi-layered contribution towards understanding how these normcore plutocrats in gold elevators have achieved and extended their power.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: ©Duke University Press, 2018.
Publisher Keywords: corpocracy, meritocracy, neoliberalism, Trump, Brexit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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