Conspicuous consumption

Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power—of the income or of the accumulated wealth of the buyer. To the conspicuous consumer, such a public display of discretionary economic power is a means of either attaining or maintaining a given social status.[1][2]

The development of Thorstein Veblen's sociology of conspicuous consumption produced the term invidious consumption, the ostentatious consumption of goods that is meant to provoke the envy of other people; and the term conspicuous compassion, the deliberate use of charitable donations of money in order to enhance the social prestige of the donor, with a display of superior socio-economic status.[3]

The sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen coined the term "conspicuous consumption", and was a co-founder of the institutional economics movement.

History and evolution

The economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) introduced the term "conspicuous consumption" in 1899 in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. Veblen described the behavioural characteristics of the nouveau riche (new rich) social class which emerged as a result of capital accumulation during the Second Industrial Revolution (c. 1860–1914).[4] In that nineteenth-century social and historical context, the term "conspicuous consumption" applied narrowly in association with the men, women, and families of the upper class who applied their great wealth as a means of publicly manifesting their social power and prestige, either real or perceived.

In the twentieth century the significant improvement of the material standard-of-living of societies and the consequent growth of the middle class saw the term "conspicuous consumption" broadly applied to the men, women, and households who possessed the discretionary income that allowed them to practice the patterns of economic consumption—of goods and services—which were motivated by the desire for prestige, the public display of social status, rather than by the intrinsic, practical utility of the goods and the services proper. In the 1920s economists, such as Paul Nystrom (1878–1969), proposed that changes in the style of life, made feasible by the economics of the industrial age, had induced in the mass of society a "philosophy of futility" that would increase the consumption of goods and services as a social fashion – i.e. an activity done for its own sake. In that context, commentators discuss "conspicuous consumption" either as a behavioural addiction or as a narcissistic behaviour, or as both, emphasising the psychological conditions induced by consumerism—the desire for the immediate gratification of hedonic expectations.

Sociologically, conspicuous consumption was thought to comprise socio-economic behaviours practiced by rich people; yet economic research indicated that conspicuous consumption is a socio-economic behaviour common to the poor social-classes and economic groups, and common to the societies of countries with emerging economies. Among such people, displays of wealth are used to psychologically combat the impression of poverty, usually because such men and women belong to a socio-economic class society perceives as poor.[5] In The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy (1996), Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko reported that Americans with a net worth of more than one million dollars are likely to avoid conspicuous consumption, and that millionaires tend to practice frugality - for example, preferring to buy used cars with cash rather than new cars with credit, in order to avoid material depreciation and paying interest for a loan to buy a new car.[6]

Conspicuous compassion, the practice of publicly donating large sums of money to charity to enhance the social prestige of the donor, is sometimes described as a type of conspicuous consumption.[3] This behaviour has long been recognised and sometimes attacked—for example, the New Testament story Lesson of the widow's mite criticises wealthy people who make large donations ostentatiously while praising poorer people who make small but comparatively more difficult donations in private.[7]

Consumerism theory

As proposed by Thorstein Veblen in the 19th century, conspicuous consumption (spending money to buy goods and services for their own sake) explains the psychological mechanics of a consumer society, and the increase in the number and the types of the goods and services that people consider necessary to and for their lives in a developed economy.

Supporting interpretations and explanations of contemporary conspicuous consumption are presented in Consumer Culture (1996), by C. Lury,[8] Consumer Culture and Modernity (1997), by D. Slater,[9] Symbolic Exchange and Death (1998), by Jean Baudrillard,[10] and Spent: Sex, Evolution, and the Secrets of Consumerism (2009), by Geoffrey Miller.[11] Moreover, Hiding in the Light (1994), by D. Hebdige, proposed that conspicuous consumption is a form of displaying a personal identity,[9][12][13] and a consequent function of advertising, as proposed in Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture (2000), by A. A. Berger.[14]

Each variant interpretation and complementary explanation is derived from Thorstein Veblen's original sociologic proposition in The Theory of the Leisure Class: that conspicuous consumption is a psychological end in itself, from which the practitioner (man, woman, family) derived the honour of superior social status.

Distinctions of type

  • Definitions – The term conspicuous consumption denotes the act of buying many things, especially expensive things, that are not necessary to one's life, done in a way that makes people notice the buyer's having bought the merchandise.[15] In the article "Veblen, Bourdieu, and Conspicuous Consumption" (2001), A. Trigg defined conspicuous consumption as the behaviours whereby a man or a woman can display great wealth, by means of idleness—expending much time in the practice of leisure activities, and spending much money to consume luxury goods and services.[16]
  • Self-worth – In the book Income, Saving and the Theory of Consumer Behavior (1949), J.S. Duesenberry proposed that a person's conspicuous consumption psychologically depends not only upon the actual level of spending, but also depends upon the degree of his or her spending, as compared with and to the spending of other people. That the conspicuous consumer is motivated by the importance, to him or to her, of the opinion of the social and economic reference groups for whom are performed the patterns of conspicuous consumption.[17][18]
  • Aggressive ostentation – In the television report "Aggressive Ostentation" (2009), Dick Meyer said that conspicuous consumption is a form of anger towards society, an "aggressive ostentation" that is an antisocial behaviour, which arose from the social alienation suffered by men, women, and families who feel they have become anonymous in and to their societies, which feeling of alienation is aggravated by the decay of the communitarian ethic essential to a person feeling him or herself part of the whole society.[19]
  • Shelter and transport – In the U.S., the trend towards building houses that were larger-than-needed, by a nuclear family, began in the 1950s. Decades later, in the year 2000, that practice of conspicuous consumption resulted in people buying houses that were double the average size needed to comfortably house a nuclear family.[20] The negative consequences of either buying or building an oversized house was either the loss of or the reduction of the family's domestic recreational space—the back yard and the front yard; the spending of old-age retirement funds to pay for a too-big house; and over-long commuting time, from house to job, and vice versa, because the required plot of land was unavailable near a city.
Oversized houses facilitated other forms of conspicuous consumption, such as an oversized garage for the family's oversized motor vehicles or buying more clothing to fill larger clothes closets. Conspicuous consumption becomes a self-generating cycle of spending money for the sake of social prestige. Analogous to the consumer trend for oversized houses is the trend towards buying oversized light-trucks, specifically the off-road sport-utility vehicle type (cf. station wagon and estate car), as a form of psychologically comforting conspicuous consumption, because such big motor-vehicles usually are bought by people who reside in a city, an urban nuclear family.[20]
  • Prestige – In the article "Status Consumption in Consumer Behaviour: Scale Development and Validation" (1999), J.K. Eastman et al. said that status consumption is based upon conspicuous consumption; yet, the literature of contemporary marketing does not establish definitive meanings for the terms status consumption and conspicuous consumption.[21][22] Moreover, in the article "Status Brands: Examining the Effects of Non-product-related Brand Associations on Status and Conspicuous Consumption" (2002), A. O'Cass and H. Frost said that sociologists often incorrectly used the terms "status consumption" and "conspicuous consumption" as interchangeable and equivalent terms. In a later study, O'Cass and Frost determined that, as sociologic constructs, the terms "status consumption" and "conspicuous consumption" denote different sociologic behaviours.[23] About the ambiguities of denotation and connotation of the term "conspicuous consumption", in the article "Conspicuous Consumption: A Literature Review" (1984), R. Mason reported that the classical, general theories of consumer decision-processes do not readily accommodate the construct of "conspicuous consumption", because the nature of said socio-economic behaviours varies according to the social class and the economic group studied.[24]
  • Motivations – In the article "Status Consumption in Cross-national Context: Socio–Psychological, Brand and Situational Antecedents" (2010), Paurav Shukla said that, whilst marketing and sales researchers recognise the importance of the buyer's social and psychological environment—the definition of the term status-directed consumption remains ambiguous, because, to develop a comprehensive general theory requires that social scientists accept two fundamental assumptions, which usually do not concord. First, though the "rational" (economic) and the "irrational" (psychologic) elements of consumer decision-making often influence a person's decision to buy particular goods and services, marketing and sales researchers usually consider the rational element dominant in a person's decision to buy the particular goods and services. Second, the consumer perceives the utility of the product (the goods, the services) as a prime consideration in evaluating its usefulness, i.e. the reason to buy the product.[25] These assumptions, required for the development of a general theory of brand selection and brand purchase, are problematic, because the resultant theories tend either to misunderstand or to ignore the "irrational" element in the behaviour of the buyer-as-consumer; and because conspicuous consumption is a behaviour predominantly "psychological" in motivation and expression, Therefore, a comprehensive, general theory of conspicuous consumption would require a separate construct for the psychological (irrational) elements of the socio-economic phenomenon that is conspicuous consumption.


High levels of conspicuous consumption may be seen as socially undesirable on two grounds; firstly, as it is often associated with high relative income, high levels of conspicuous consumption may be an indicator of high levels of income inequality, which may be found intrinsically or instrumentally objectionable; secondly conspicuous consumption differs from other forms of consumption in that the main reason for the purchase of positional goods is not due to the additional direct utility provided by the goods alleged high quality, but rather the social prestige associated with the consumption of that good. One downside of this search for status is that individual purchases of positional goods may at a social level be self-defeating due to external effects. In this case, the externality is status anxiety, the loss of social status suffered by people whose stock of high-status goods (positional goods) is diminished, in relation to the stocks of other conspicuous consumers, as they increase their consumption of high-status goods and services; effectively, status-seeking is a zero-sum game—by definition, the rise of one person in the social hierarchy can occur only at the expense of other people. Therefore, the conspicuous consumption of luxury goods and services (positional goods) is an economic loss—like competitive military spending (an arms race), wherein each country must match the military expenditures of other countries in the arms race, or suffer a loss of relative military power. In the case of conspicuous consumption, taxes upon luxury goods diminish societal expenditures on high-status goods, by rendering them more expensive than non-positional goods. In this sense, luxury taxes can be seen as a market failure correcting Pigovian tax—with an apparent negative deadweight loss, these taxes are a more efficient mechanism for increasing revenue than 'distorting' labour or capital taxes.[26]

A luxury tax applied to goods and services for conspicuous consumption is a type of progressive sales tax that at least partially corrects the negative externality associated with the conspicuous consumption of positional goods.[27] In Utility from Accumulation (2009), Louis Kaplow said that assets exercise an objective social-utility function, i.e. the rich man and the rich woman hoard material assets, because the hoard, itself, functions as status goods that establish his and her socio-economic position within society.[28] When utility is derived directly from accumulation of assets, this lowers the dead weight loss associated with inheritance taxes and raises the optimal rate of inheritance taxation.[29]

John Stuart Mill by John Watkins, 1865
In the 19th century, the philosopher John Stuart Mill recommended taxing the practice of conspicuous consumption.

In place of luxury taxes, the economist Robert H. Frank proposed the application of a progressive consumption tax; in the article "The Big City: Rich and Poor, Consumed by Consuming" (1998), John Tierney said that as a remedy for the social and psychological malaise that is conspicuous consumption, the personal income tax should be replaced with a progressive tax upon the yearly sum of discretionary income spent on the conspicuous consumption of goods and services.[30] Another option is the redistribution of wealth, either by means of an incomes policy - for example the conscious efforts to promote wage compression under variants of Social corporatism such as the Rehn–Meidner model and/or by some mix of progressive taxation and transfer policies, and provision of public goods.[31][32][33] Because the activity of conspicuous consumption, itself, is a form of superior good, diminishing the income inequality of the income distribution by way of an egalitarian policy reduces the conspicuous consumption of positional goods and services. In Wealth and Welfare (1912), the economist A. C. Pigou said that the redistribution of wealth might lead to great gains in social welfare:

Now the part played by comparative, as distinguished from absolute, income is likely to be small for incomes that only suffice to provide the necessaries and primary comforts of life, but to be large with large incomes. In other words, a larger proportion of the satisfaction yielded by the incomes of rich people comes from their relative, rather than from their absolute, amount. This part of it will not be destroyed if the incomes of all rich people are diminished together. The loss of economic welfare suffered by the rich when command over resources is transferred from them to the poor will, therefore, be substantially smaller relatively to the gain of economic welfare to the poor than a consideration of the law of diminishing utility taken by itself suggests.[34]

The economic case for the taxation of positional, luxury goods has a long history; in the mid-19th century, in Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy (1848), John Stuart Mill said:

I disclaim all asceticism, and by no means wish to see discouraged, either by law or opinion, any indulgence which is sought from a genuine inclination for, any enjoyment of, the thing itself; but a great portion of the expenses of the higher and middle classes in most countries . . . is not incurred for the sake of the pleasure afforded by the things on which the money is spent, but from regard to opinion, and an idea that certain expenses are expected from them, as an appendage of station; and I cannot but think that expenditure of this sort is a most desirable subject of taxation. If taxation discourages it, some good is done, and if not, no harm; for in so far as taxes are levied on things which are desired and possessed from motives of this description, nobody is the worse for them. When a thing is bought not for its use but for its costliness, cheapness is no recommendation.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Veblen, Thorstein (1899). The Theory of the Leisure Class. Project Gutenberg.
  2. ^ The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, Third Edition, Alan Bullock, Stephen Trombley, Eds., 1993, p. 162.
  3. ^ a b West, Patrick (2004). Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes It Really Is Cruel To Be Kind. London: Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society. ISBN 978-1-903386-34-7.
  4. ^ Veblen, Thorstein. (1899) Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. New York: Macmillan. 400 pp., also: 1994 Dover paperback edition, ISBN 0-486-28062-4, 1994 Penguin Classics edition, ISBN 0-14-018795-2.
  5. ^ Virginia Postrel, "Inconspicuous Consumption", The Atlantic, July/August 2008. "Conspicuous consumption, this research suggests, is not an unambiguous signal of personal affluence. It's a sign of belonging to a relatively poor group."
  6. ^ Thomas J. Stanley, William D. Danko, The Millionaire Next Door at Google Books, Simon and Schuster, 1998.
  7. ^ Robert L. Payton and Michael P. Moody (2008). Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission. p. 137. ISBN 978-0253000132.
  8. ^ Lury, C. (1996) Consumer Culture. London: Polity.
  9. ^ a b Slater, D. (1997) Consumer Culture and Modernity. London: Polity.
  10. ^ Baudrillard, J. (1998b) Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage.
  11. ^ Miller G, Spent: sex, evolution and the secrets of consumerism, Random House, London, 2009 (ISBN 9780670020621)
  12. ^ Hebdige, D. (1994) Hiding in the Light. London: Routledge.
  13. ^ Wilson, E. (eds.) Chic Thrills. A Fashion Reader. London: HarperCollins
  14. ^ Berger, A. A. (2000) Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.
  15. ^ Longman American Dictionary, 2000, p. 296.
  16. ^ Trigg, A. (2001). "Veblen, Bourdieu, and conspicuous consumption". Journal of Economic Issues. 35 (1): 99–115. doi:10.1080/00213624.2001.11506342. JSTOR 4227638.
  17. ^ Duesenberry, J.S. (1949), Income, Saving and the Theory of Consumer Behavior, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  18. ^ Shukla, P. (2008), "Conspicuous Consumption Among Middle age Consumers: Psychological and Brand Antecedents", Journal of Product and Brand Management, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 25–36
  19. ^ Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie; Meyer, Dick (2009-02-11). "Aggressive Ostentation". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  20. ^ a b Lloyd, Carol (2005-10-14). "Monster Homes R Us: American homes are monuments to conspicuous consumption". SF Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  21. ^ Eastman, J. K.; Goldsmith, R. E.; Flynn, L. R. (1999). "Status Consumption in Consumer Behaviour: Scale Development and Validation". Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. 7 (3): 41–51. doi:10.1080/10696679.1999.11501839.
  22. ^ Shukla, Paurav (2010-01-09). "Status (luxury) consumption among British and Indian consumers". Paurav Shukla (Podcast). International Marketing Review. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  23. ^ O'Cass, A.; Frost, H. (2002). "Status Brands: Examining the Effects of Non-product-related Brand Associations on Status and Conspicuous Consumption". Journal of Product & Brand Management. 11 (2): 67–88. doi:10.1108/10610420210423455.
  24. ^ Mason, R. (1984). "Conspicuous Consumption: A Literature Review". European Journal of Marketing. 18 (3): 26–39. doi:10.1108/eum0000000004779.
  25. ^ Shukla, P. (2010). "Status Consumption in Cross-national Context: Socio-psychological, Brand and Situational Antecedents". International Marketing Review. 27 (1): 108–129. doi:10.1108/02651331011020429.
  26. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (1987). "Diamonds Are a Government's Best Friend: Burden-Free Taxes on Goods Valued for Their Values". American Economic Review. 77 (1): 186–91. JSTOR 1806737.
  27. ^ Sámano, Daniel (2009). "Optimal Linear Taxation of Positional Goods" (PDF). Working Paper. University of Minnesota.
  28. ^ Kaplow, L. (2009). "Utility from Accumulation". doi:10.3386/w15595.
  29. ^ Cremer, H.; Pestieau, P. (2011). "The Tax Treatment of Intergenerational Wealth Transfers". CESifo Economic Studies. 57 (2): 365–401. doi:10.1093/cesifo/ifr014.
  30. ^ Tierney, John (1998-11-30). "The Big City; Rich and Poor, Consumed By Consuming". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  31. ^ Micheletto, L. (2011). "Optimal Nonlinear Redistributive Taxation and Public Good Provision in an Economy with Veblen Effects". Journal of Public Economic Theory. 13 (1): 71–96. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9779.2010.01493.x.
  32. ^ Boskin, Michael J.; Sheshinski, Eytan (1978). "Optimal Redistributive Taxation When Individual Welfare Depends Upon Relative Income". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 92 (4): 589–601. doi:10.2307/1883177. JSTOR 1883177.
  33. ^ Aronsson, Thomas; Johansson-Stenman, Olof (2008). "When the Joneses' Consumption Hurts: Optimal Public Good Provision and Nonlinear Income Taxation". Journal of Public Economics. 92 (5–6): 986–997. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2007.12.007.
  34. ^ Pigou, Arthur Cecil (1912). Wealth and Welfare.
  35. ^ John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy, book 5, ch. 6, pt. 7 (W.J. Ashley, ed., Longmans, Green & Co. 1909) (1848)

Further reading

External links


Anti-consumerism is a sociopolitical ideology that is opposed to consumerism, the continual buying and consuming of material possessions. Anti-consumerism is concerned with the private actions of business corporations in pursuit of financial and economic goals at the expense of the public welfare, especially in matters of environmental protection, social stratification, and ethics in the governing of a society. In politics, anti-consumerism overlaps with environmental activism, anti-globalization, and animal-rights activism; moreover, a conceptual variation of anti-consumerism is post-consumerism, living in a material way that transcends consumerism.Anti-consumerism arose in response to the problems caused by the long-term mistreatment of human consumers and of the animals consumed, and from the incorporation of consumer education to school curricula; examples of anti-consumerism are the book No Logo (2000) by Naomi Klein, and documentary films such as The Corporation (2003), by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, and Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003), by Erik Gandini; each made anti-corporate activism popular as an ideologically accessible form of civil and political action.

The criticism of economic materialism as a dehumanizing behaviour that is destructive of the Earth, as human habitat, comes from religion and social activism. The religious criticism asserts that materialist consumerism interferes with the connection between the individual and God, and so is an inherently immoral style of life; thus the German historian Oswald Spengler (1880–1936) said that "Life in America is exclusively economic in structure, and lacks depth." From the Roman Catholic perspective, Thomas Aquinas said that "Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things"; in that vein, Francis of Assisi, Ammon Hennacy, and Mohandas Gandhi said that spiritual inspiration guided them towards simple living.

From the secular perspective, social activism indicates that from consumerist materialism derive crime (which originates from the poverty of economic inequality), industrial pollution and the consequent environmental degradation, and war as a business. About the societal discontent born of malaise and hedonism, Pope Benedict XVI said that the philosophy of materialism offers no raison d'être for human existence; likewise, the writer Georges Duhamel said that "American materialism [is] a beacon of mediocrity that threatened to eclipse French civilization".

Archangels Don't Play Pinball

Archangels Don't Play Pinball (Italian title: Gli arcangeli non giocano al flipper) is a 1959 two-act play by Dario Fo. The play uses the metaphor of a pinball machine—a new innovation in Italy at the time of and one of which Fo and his wife Franca Rame were fond— to convey mechanisation and conspicuous consumption.

Black Diamonds (racial term)

Black Diamonds is a collective term that is used pejoratively in South Africa to refer to members of the new black middle class. The term was not originally derogatory. It was coined by TNS Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd and the UCT Unilever Institute to refer to members of South Africa’s fast-growing, affluent and influential black community. However, the term evolved negative connotations and is now used almost exclusively as a pejorative term.Colonial governments in South Africa reduced bushmen to an underclass, and the first generations of independent government entrenched racial segregation in a legal system known as apartheid which, amongst other things, effectively reserved skilled jobs for whites and forced blacks into unskilled labour. This resulted in a society where whites comprised the upper, middle and lower classes with blacks forming an underclass. However, between 1990 and 1994, the South African government led by F.W. de Klerk, under severe internal and international pressure, initiated a process that would culminate in a transition to multiracial democracy, popularly referred to as the "democratic dispensation". In the first multiracial elections of 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) was voted into power and embarked on an affirmative action programme that, gradually over the course of the subsequent decades, brought a new black middle class into being. Many blacks who have benefitted from the affirmative action programmes have become involved in South Africa’s lucrative gold and diamond mining industries, a fact which contributed to the development of the term Black Diamonds.

The term Black Diamonds is used in a derogatory way because people who are referred to as Black Diamonds are viewed by others as gauche nouveau riche/new money and showing poor taste by dressing in a gaudy way, wearing clothes and accessories with conspicuous name-brands (like Gucci or Prada), driving specific cars (like Mercedes Benz or BMWs), going to specific nightclubs (like ZAR, Cubana and News Café) and indulging generally in conspicuous consumption activities without restraint. They are viewed as being an avaricious caste with little regard for philanthropy or benevolent, typically African, social precepts like ubuntu. Many people who are considered Black Diamonds are hard working black people. Black Diamonds is similar to the concept of the WaBenzi.


The bourgeoisie (; French: [buʁʒwazi]) is a polysemous French term that can mean:

a sociologically defined class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural and financial capital belonging to the middle or upper middle class: the upper (haute), middle (moyenne), and petty (petite) bourgeoisie (which are collectively designated "the bourgeoisie"); an affluent and often opulent stratum of the middle class who stand opposite the proletariat class.

originally and generally, "those who live in the borough", that is to say, the people of the city (including merchants and craftsmen), as opposed to those of rural areas; in this sense, the bourgeoisie began to grow in Europe from the 11th century and particularly during the Renaissance of the 12th century (i.e., the onset of the High Middle Ages), with the first developments of rural exodus and urbanization.

a legally defined class of the Middle Ages to the end of the Ancien Régime (Old Regime) in France, that of inhabitants having the rights of citizenship and political rights in a city (comparable to the German term Bürgertum and Bürger; see also "Burgher").The "bourgeoisie" in its original sense is intimately linked to the existence of cities recognized as such by their urban charters (e.g. municipal charter, town privileges, German town law), so there was no bourgeoisie "outside the walls of the city" beyond which the people were "peasants" submitted to the stately courts and manorialism (except for the traveling "fair bourgeoisie" living outside urban territories, who retained their city rights and domicile).

In Marxist philosophy, the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.Joseph Schumpeter saw the incorporation of new elements into an expanding bourgeoisie, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction, as the driving force behind the capitalist engine.

Conspicuous conservation

Conspicuous Conservation is described as partaking in activities that are environmentally friendly in order to signal a higher social status.

As global warming begins to raise an increasing amount of concern, we humans are starting to recognize the consequences that our actions have on our planet. Conspicuous conservation is a growing concept that has come out of the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption. History has shown that humans are known to be obsessed with consuming material goods. However, it is only recently that we have come to terms with the subsequent consequences that threatens our environment as a result of mass production.Conspicuous consumption and conservation are more than simple actions that one commits throughout the day, but are more so a creation of a new branch of culture. This addiction of consumption redefines taste and behaviour of societies, thus causing a culture shift. This shift progresses as individuals from different societies choose to deal with this addictive consumption and whether or not they chose to engage in conspicuous conservation. This retaliatory movement known as conspicuous conservation fights consumption with a focuses on conscientious environmental choices that encourage consumers to think green. Therefore, this encourages buyers to rethink their need for a product prior to its purchase and to determine whether the environmental damage it produced to be constructed are worth the consequences.

Conspicuous expression

Conspicuous expression or performative consumption are terms used to describe the act of doing something for the primary purpose of having someone see you do it. This is based on the concepts of conspicuous consumption, conspicuous leisure, and the performative turn.This is similar to conspicuous consumption except that it does not involve buying anything. Additionally, rather than showing off wealth, conspicuous expression is used to show off social status. In other words, it is doing something for others to witness so that they think you are "cool".

Conspicuous leisure

Conspicuous leisure is a concept introduced by the American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen, in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Conspicuous or visible leisure is engaged in for the sake of displaying and attaining social status. The concept comprises those forms of leisure that seem to be fully motivated by social factors, such as taking long vacations to exotic places and bringing souvenirs back. Conspicuous leisure is observed in all societies where stratification exists. Conspicuous leisure contributes to the glorification of non-productivity, thus validating the behavior of the most powerful classes and leading the lower classes to admire rather than revile the leisure class. This aids the leisure class in retaining their status and material position. Veblen's more well-known concept of "conspicuous consumption" is employed when non-productivity can be more effectively demonstrated through lavish spending.

Veblen argued that conspicuous leisure had deep historical roots reaching back into prehistory, and that it "evolved" into different forms as time passed. One example he gave was how, during the Middle Ages, the nobility was exempted from manual labor, which was reserved for serfs. Like owning land, abstaining from labor is a typical display of wealth and one that becomes more problematic as society develops into an industrial one. With the emergence of individual ownership, the leisure class completely stops contributing to the well being of their community. They no longer perform honor-positions, thus totally negating their usefulness to the society. And as society moves away from hunting and agriculture, and towards industrialization, the leisure class can no longer simply take resources from others. This is where Veblen offers us an image of the decaying Lord or Lady who has lost his or her fortune but is unable to engage in labor in order to live. These wealthy elite see labor as menial and vulgar, yet once they can no longer live their worthy life of leisure they suffer from an inability to preserve themselves.

Veblen defines leisure as the non-productive consumption of time. The wealthy consume time unproductively due to a disgust of menial labor but also as evidence of their pecuniary ability to live idle lives. But there are moments when even the noble is not viewed publicly and then he must give a satisfactory account of his use of time. Often his account will manifest through the appearance of servants or some sort of craftsmen. A material proof of leisure is another way that the noble demonstrates his wealth even when he is out of the public's eye. Objects or trophies or knowledge that has no real-world application are all examples of the things that the wealthy use to demonstrate their wealth and their leisure. Displaying rules of etiquette and breeding, and formal and ceremonial observances are other demonstrations of unproductive (and therefore leisurely) uses of time.

It is also not enough for the leisure class to live a life of idleness; their servants must also engage in the performance of leisure despite their position as hired help. They are given uniforms, spacious quarters and other material items that signal the wealth of their employer: the more lavish the servants' dress and quarters, the more money the master has to spend freely. This is an example of "conspicuous consumption," a form of conspicuous leisure. House servants give the illusion of "pecuniary decency" to the household, despite the physical discomfort that the leisure class feels at the sight of servants, who produce labor.

Economic materialism

This article addresses materialism in the economic sense of the word. For information on the philosophical and scientific meanings, see materialism.Materialism is a personal attitude which attaches importance to acquiring and consuming material goods.

The use of the term materialistic tends to describe a person's personality or a society tends to have a negative or critical connotation. Also called acquisitiveness, it is often associated with a value system which regards social status as being determined by affluence (see conspicuous consumption), as well as the belief that possessions can provide happiness. Environmentalism can be considered a competing orientation to materialism.Materialism can be considered a pragmatic form of enlightened self-interest based on a prudent understanding of the character of market-oriented economy and society.


Hyperconsumerism, hyper-consumerism, hyperconsumption or hyper-consumption refer to the consumption of goods for non-functional purposes and the associated significant pressure to consume those goods exerted by the modern, capitalist society, as those goods shape one's identity. Frenchy Lunning defines it curtly as "a consumerism for the sake of consuming."

Keeping up with the Joneses

Keeping up with the Joneses is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to "keep up with the Joneses" is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority. The phrase originated in a comic strip of the same name.


Kogal (コギャル, kogyaru) is a Japanese fashion culture that involves schoolgirls wearing an outfit based on Japanese school uniform, but with very short skirts. The short skirts are worn irrespective of the season. The girls may also wear loose socks and scarves, and have dyed hair. The word "kogal" is anglicized from kogyaru, a contraction of kōkōsei gyaru (high school gal). The girls refer to themselves as gyaru (gals), although this word is applied to several other fashion looks as well.

Aside from the miniskirt or microskirt, and the loose socks, kogals favor platform boots, makeup, and Burberry scarves. They may also dye their hair brown and get artificial suntans. They have a distinctive slang peppered with English words. They are often, but not necessarily, enrolled students. Centers of kogal culture include the Harajuku and Shibuya districts of Tokyo, in particular Shibuya's 109 Building. Pop singer Namie Amuro promoted the style. Kogals are avid users of photo booths, with most visiting at least once a week, according to non-scientific polls. While critics condemned the gyaru as shallow, materialistic, and devoted to conspicuous consumption, admirers describe them as "kindhearted, active young women in exuberant health, the women of today."

Nouveau riche

Nouveau riche (French: [nuvo ʁiʃ]; French for "new rich") is a term, usually derogatory, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance. The equivalent English term is the "new rich" or "new money" (in contrast with "old money"/vieux riche). Sociologically, nouveau riche refers to the person who previously had belonged to a lower social class and economic stratum (rank) within that class; and that the new money, which constitutes his or her wealth, allowed upward social mobility and provided the means for conspicuous consumption, the buying of goods and services that signal membership in an upper class. As a pejorative term, nouveau riche affects distinctions of type, the given stratum within a social class; hence, among the rich people of a social class, nouveau riche describes the vulgarity and ostentation of the newly rich man or woman who lacks the worldly experience and the system of values of "old money", of inherited wealth, such as the patriciate, the nobility and the gentry.

Satori generation

Satori generation (さとり世代) is a Japanese language neologism used to describe young Japanese who have seemingly achieved the Buddhist enlightened state free from material desires but who have in reality given up ambition and hope due to macro-economic trends. The term was coined around 2010. The Satori generation are not interested in earning money, career advancement, and conspicuous consumption, or even travel, hobbies and romantic relationships; their alcohol consumption is far lower than Japanese of earlier generations. They live in a period of Waithood and are NEET, parasite singles, freeters or hikikomori. The Satori generation in Japan is roughly equivalent to the Sampo generation in Korea, and is somewhat similar to the Strawberry generation in Taiwan.

The Theory of the Leisure Class

The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899), by Thorstein Veblen, is a treatise on economics and a detailed, social critique of conspicuous consumption, as a function of social class and of consumerism, derived from the social stratification of people and the division of labour, which are the social institutions of the feudal period (9th–15th centuries) that have continued to the modern era.

Veblen asserts that the contemporary lords of the manor, the businessmen who own the means of production, have employed themselves in the economically unproductive practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, which are useless activities that contribute neither to the economy nor to the material production of the useful goods and services required for the functioning of society, while it is the middle class and the working class who are usefully employed in the industrialised, productive occupations that support the whole of society.

Conducted in the late 19th century, Veblen's socio-economic analyses of the business cycles and the consequent price politics of the U.S. economy, and of the emergent division of labour, by technocratic speciality – scientist, engineer, technologist, et al. – proved to be accurate, sociological predictions of the economic structure of an industrial society.

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (; born Torsten Bunde Veblen; July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist who became famous as a witty critic of capitalism.

Veblen is known for the idea of "conspicuous consumption". People engage in conspicuous consumption, along with "conspicuous leisure", to demonstrate wealth or to mark social status. Veblen explains the concept in his best-known book, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Historians of economic thought regard Veblen as the leader of the institutional economics movement. Contemporary economists still call Veblen's distinction between "institutions" and "technology" the Veblenian dichotomy.As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era in the United States of America, Veblen attacked production for profit. His emphasis on conspicuous consumption greatly influenced the socialist thinkers who engaged in non-Marxist critiques of capitalism and of technological determinism.


Tryphé (Greek: τρυφἠ) -- variously glossed as "softness",



and "extravagance", none fully adequate—is a concept that drew attention (and severe criticism) in Roman antiquity when it became a significant factor in the reign of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Classical authors such as Aeschines and Plutarch condemned the tryphé of Romans such as Crassus and Lucullus, which included lavish dinner parties and ostentatious buildings.

But there was more to Ptolemaic tryphé than dissipative excess, which after all can be pursued in residential or geographical seclusion, and for purely private purposes. It was a component of a calculated political strategy, in that it deployed not just conspicuous consumption but also conspicuous magnificence, beneficence and feminine delicacy, as a self-reinforcing cluster of signal propaganda concepts in the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Valley girl

Valley girl is a socioeconomic stereotype depicting a class of women characterized by the colloquial California English dialect Valleyspeak and materialism.

Originally referring to upper-middle class girls from the Los Angeles commuter communities of the San Fernando Valley during the 1980s, the term in later years became more broadly applied to any female in the United States who engendered the associated affects of ditziness, airheadedness, and/or greater interest in conspicuous consumption than intellectual or personal accomplishment.

Veblen good

Veblen goods are types of luxury goods for which the quantity demanded increases as the price increases, an apparent contradiction of the law of demand, resulting in an upward-sloping demand curve. Some goods become more desirable because of their high prices. For example, in the 1990s when "fashion" jeans became popular, one retailer was able to sell more after raising the price. A higher price may make a product desirable as a status symbol in the practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. A product may be a Veblen good because it is a positional good, something few others can own.

Veblen goods are named after American economist Thorstein Veblen, who first identified conspicuous consumption as a mode of status-seeking in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). A corollary of the Veblen effect is that lowering the price decreases the quantity demanded.

Whitman College, Princeton University

Whitman College is one of the six residential colleges at Princeton University, New Jersey, United States. The college is named after Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, following her $30 million donation to build the college. The structure was designed by architect Demetri Porphyrios. Construction of Whitman College was completed in Fall of 2007; 2007–08 marked the inaugural academic year for the college.

Whitman is a four-year residential college, open to students of all four academic classes. Its sister two-year college is Forbes College. Although it is possible for any upperclassman to live in Whitman, priority for housing room draw is given to those upperclassmen who lived in either Whitman or Forbes as underclassmen.

The current master of Whitman is Sandra Bermann; she is the Cotsen Professor of the Humanities and a Professor of Comparative Literature department. Before becoming Master of Whitman, Bermann served as Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature for twelve years, as Master of Stevenson Hall, co-founded the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication, and led the President’s Working Group on the Bridge Year Program. The master of Whitman was Harvey S. Rosen, the John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy. The Dean is Dr. Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu, the former Director of Studies for Rockefeller College. The Director of Studies is Dr. Justin Lorts and the Director of Student Life is Momo Wolapaye. Josue Lajeunesse, a custodian at Whitman College, is a main subject of the documentary film The Philosopher Kings, and is also an active humanitarian working to make clean water accessible to the people of his home village of Lasource, Haiti.The residential college comprises seven dormitories: South Baker Hall, Hargadon Hall, Fisher Hall, Lauritzen Hall, Class of 1981 Hall, Murley-Pivirotto Family Tower, and Wendell Hall. The college's dining hall is called Community Hall, so named not for the University community but rather for the eBay community.One of the more unusual aspects of the Whitman College system is its tradition of weekly "College Night" dinners, sponsored by the Whitman College Council and open to Whitman residents only. College Nights involve a number of different themes including Carnival, Halloween, and even a dinner themed after the NBC series "The Office". College Night dinners are popular among Whitman students but have sparked some controversy among the rest of the Princeton community.Whitman College participates in seasonal intramural athletics, including soccer, volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee. Whitman also organizes a variety of other recreational activities, including a craft circle and the Jane Austen literary society.

In 2007, the college was criticized in a Bloomberg Businessweek article for its "over-the-top comforts."

"It's only fitting that Whitman College, Princeton's new student residence, is named for eBay CEO Meg Whitman, because it's a billionaire's mansion in the form of a dorm... Each student room has triple-glazed mahogany casement windows made of leaded glass. The dining hall boasts a 35-foot ceiling gabled in oak and a 'state of the art servery.' By the time the 10-building complex in the Collegiate Gothic style opened in August, it had cost Princeton $136 million... Gold-plating new dorms raises issues of taste and donor ego. More than before, impressionable students and ambitious parents have come to view college as a form of conspicuous consumption."

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