Capitalism did not create cool

In a recent Atlantic article on "How Capitalism Created Cool," two neuroscientists discuss their research on coolness and the brain. By cool, they mean "the social life of products" as they generate feelings of happiness in the medial prefrontal cortex. Working within the new field of neuroeconomics, the researchers "measure[d] responses to cool products," and how both an iPad or a retro shirt can generate the feeling of "coolness," which they equate with achieving "higher social status" -- in other words, a feeling that is both self-expressive (this is me) and elitist (it makes me better than you). Capitalism did not create this feelingit appropriated and commodified an elusive, alienated feeling of personal rebellion that was once intangibly valuable. African-American jazz musicians created, coined, lived, and first disseminated the emblematic value of cool to mean a balanced state of mind and a relaxed bearing -- cool is an antecedent for chill and chillin'. Read how Lester Young created cool in the 1940s, or an evocative history of "The Genius of [Black] Cool," or wait for my forthcoming book, The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (U of Chicago, 2016).