The Demand for a Growing Supply of Capitalist Tools

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You can take the aesthete out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the aesthete. That's one way of explaining the success of the German (and now British) store Manufactum, best described as a Wal-Mart for the 1%.

Need an ice scraper? How about one with a bronze blade and beech handle for $27? Table clamp? Forget Loews -- Manufactum's got an aluminum system for $700. What about a bucket for cleaning supplies? Presto: here's one in stainless steel for $105. It's like someone turned Marie Antoinette's farm into a mail-order business.

And while anyone who would actually use such tools professionally wouldn't be caught dead with, say, a $62 birch "tool carrier," the store's continuing success speaks to the profound, and profoundly lucrative, longings of urbanites the world over. The prices may be mystifying, but the impulse to buy such products is straightforward. It's the same reason people buy winter jackets designed for climbing Everest -- they're paying for the potential.

So no, you will not be scaling an ice face any time soon, or using your $90 Japanese toolbox from NYC's Kiosk to carry tools to a construction site. But you could. In the meantime, who cares if the stuff is gathering dust?

There's a $57 dustpan and brush, just in case you do.

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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