February 25, 2019

Thorstein Veblen’s “conspicuous consumption” updated…



“Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure...In other words, the conspicuous consumer spends money to impress other people and to ensure that others are well aware of the spender’s socioeconomic status.”
        Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
        Norwegian-American economist and sociologist
        In his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Chapter 4
        Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to refer to the way some people use obviously lavish spending to demonstrate their wealth (often regardless of whether they are actually wealthy).

“Being thin is a kind of inconspicuous consumption that distinguishes the rich at a time when most poor people can more easily afford to be fat than thin. Since idealized sex objects are modeled partly on class-associated images, this is surely a factor. For a man to have a thin woman in his arm is a sign of his own worth, and a woman increases her market value by being slender. Fat women are either accorded a nonsexual status in this system, or else (and less publicly) are granted a degraded 'lower class' kind of animal sexuality.”
        Marcia Millman
        Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz
        In her book Such a Pretty Face: Being Fat in America (1980), Chapter 6


“Conspicuous waste beyond the imagination of Thorstein Veblen has become the mark of American life.  As a nation we find ourselves overbuilt, if not overhoused; overfed, although millions of poor people are undernourished; overtransported in overpowered cars; and also . . . overdefended or overdefensed.” 
        Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005)
        U.S. Democratic politician and author
        In his book America Revisited (1978)


“The Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) roadster has a 1,000 pound battery that needs to be replaced every 7 years at a cost of about $36,000...It’s conspicuous consumption for wealthy liberals — in much the same way that huge SUVs were the vehicle of choice for rich conservatives a few years ago.”
        Kevin McElroy
        American investment analyst
        In a post on his blog on the Wyatt Investment website
        The base price of the newest model of the Tesla Roadster is $200,000.


“Many...rich Americans aren’t just rich; they are responsibly rich. They made their money the new fashioned way: They worked for it. But they know that luck, not sweat, graced their paths. Their focus is on giving back, not taking more. They pay their taxes, found real charities, endow universities, support hospitals, fund medical research and gamble on products that can help us all. Their lives are lives of conspicuous philanthropy, not conspicuous consumption.”
        Laurence Kotlikoff
        Professor of Economics at Boston University and columnist for The Hill political website
        In an opinion piece arguing against imposing huge taxes on wealthy Americans


“Sex and the City 2" (R) Sarah Jessica Parker and her gal pals are back in a bloated commercial for conspicuous consumption. It amounts to a long shopping trip through Manhattan followed by a long shopping trip through a resort hotel in Abu Dhabi.”
        Michael Giuliano
        Film critic and Professor of Film/Interdisciplinary Arts at Howard University
        In a “capsule review” of Sex and the City 2 in the Fort Meade, Maryland newspaper in 2010


“The new champion of conspicuous consumption – iPhone division, the Kings Button iPhone mod, in which Austrian jeweler Peter Aloisson will encrust your device in three kinds of 18-carat gold (white, yellow and rose) and 6.6 carats of diamonds, for the ‘What Financial Crisis?’ sum of $2.5 million.”
        Lonnie Lazar
        American technology writer, musician, web designer and attorney
        In his column on the Cult of Mac website


“Veblen argues that no class, not even the poorest, forgoes all conspicuous consumption. This is even truer of inconspicuous consumption. Even the poorest of the poor can afford a T-shirt with a Caesar’s Palace logo from the half-price rack at Wal-Mart or a hamburger in a bag sporting McDonald’s golden arches. Even the street person can fish things out of the local trash can. Many of the poor spend inordinate amounts on such inconspicuous consumption and, in the process, may ignore essential needs and purchases. This tends to support Veblen’s view that people will endure a quite shabby private life to have the public symbols they deem desirable.”
        George Ritzer
        American sociologist
        In his book Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption (2005), Chapter 10

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