Normcore plutocrats in gold elevators: Reading the Trump Tower Photographs

Littler, Jo. 2019. Normcore plutocrats in gold elevators: Reading the Trump Tower Photographs. Cultural Politics, 15(1), pp. 15-28. ISSN 1743-2197 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

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.

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© 2019 Duke University Press


corpocracy, meritocracy, neoliberalism, Trump, Brexit

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


10 September 2018Accepted
1 March 2019Published Online

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Date Deposited:

29 Apr 2024 10:59

Last Modified:

30 Apr 2024 03:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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