Talk: The Political Impact of Billy: How a Bookshelf Became an Indicator for Socio-Cultural Shifts
Everybody knows it, many live with it in their homes – and in each Billy-biography there are moments of love and hate, of pride and shame. Hardly any other piece of modern furniture tells so much about the ongoing status wars in society as Ikea's Billy-shelf does. When inventing it in 1978, its designer Gillis Lundgren thought of it as democratic: “Billy has allowed so many people to have their own home library”, he once said. Billy was indeed born in an era, when left-libertarian ideas about the welfare state and about the improvement of mass-education prevailed. In the 1990s, with the surge of the neoliberal ideology, these ideas collapsed. And so did Billy – almost. Ikea decided not to produce it any longer, and Neocons discussed it as an example of a "too socialist" way of living. But Billy survived, mainly due to worldwide consumer protests in defence of "their" Billy. Just recently, Billy underwent another small revival, under the fashionable feuilletonistic caption "Normcore". At the same time, public educational systems are currently being dismantled even more radically, individual purchasing power is drifting apart even more, and status anxiety is strongly on the rise again. It might be the right time to re-read and re-use Billy as a political symbol.