The concept of
conspicuous consumption was first introduced by Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book, “The Theory of the Leisure Class”.
It’s a term used to refer to the practice of consumers buying goods and
services to publicly display wealth and income, rather than to cover their basic
needs. This particular type of consumption is not new and has been part of the
society for a long time, and mostly associated with the rich and wealthy with
the aim to gain or maintain higher social status or esteem.
According to Juliet Schor, in her
article “The New Politics of Consumption” in the summer of 1999, which has to
start with everyday life and its developments of consumption. These idea of
development is called the “New Consumerism”, which means the upscaling of the
lifestyle norms, the pervasiveness of conspicuous, status goods and the
competition for acquiring them; and the growing disconnect between consumer
desires and incomes. the basic idea is that, in general, people today
are more aspiring towards luxury and affluence, as opposed to the old era in
which achieving a comfortable and decent middle-class existence was the more
According to Schor, it is believed
that there are factors that led to the new consumerism. One of which has to do with the shifting
of income and wealth in recent decades. For some decades now in the US and
other advanced countries have experience change towards greater inequality in
terms of the shared income and wealth going to the top 20 percent of the
population. This outcome of upward redeployment has increasingly enabled those
at the top of the socio-economic ladder to engage in all manner of luxury
spending and conspicuous consumption. In return, the rising consumption norms
of this wealthy minority have affected the ways in which the great majority of
people – the remaining 80 percent – look at the world and develop their own
Another factor is the way the role the
media has played in passing on fascinating images of wealthy lifestyles to the
targeted audience. there was a conspicuous change in the commercial media like
television, magazines, etc. The media portray the expensive lifestyles as the
social custom which people should aim. These was achievable because, during
that time, there was rise in the volume of people that were spending with
electronic media on a daily basis.
Also, was the factor that make an historical
shift of middle-class women out of suburban neighbourhoods (where the neighbours
were imitating and “keeping up with the Joneses” were the order of
the day) and into hierarchical workplaces in which they were exposed much more
frequently to people of higher economic status, and hence became more likely to
pick up new consumption cues from such people.
Conspicuous consumption has
skyrocket these days because the consumer’s have enough of money, yet are they
different from the other class like the middle class and all? Because the growth of income has deeply
focused at the very top, luxury goods have become the prime drivers of economic
activity around the world. To understand these goods, we must understand the
motives of the customers they serve, and it’s here that many analysts have
How the conspicuous consumption
has taken over our society, imagine someone buying a Mercedes Benz on financing
just to off his wealth status and all, even though he has what it takes to get
a Honda and pays it in full, but because he wants to let his other peers see
him has a big guy or to make the ladies think of him has a big boy, he allows
peer pressure to take over him. Meanwhile both the Honda and the Benz goes on
the same road, same gas and all, just the luxury taste that makes it different
These has made our generation become
what we aren’t, just because we want to make our peers see us in designer
brands and all, the social norms of consumption are inclining every single time
with the help of the media and advertisement we see, we tend to let them get to
us and before we know what is going on we are already out with our credit card
and within a click we have purchased the commodity. These are what the affluent
ones usually violate, the law of demand. Which says as the price of goods geos
up, the consumers buys less. however, these is opposite to the rich because
they are someone who go after what its called the “Veblen goods” which is as
price of the goods go up, the sales also go up.
The “Veblen goods” term was
introduced by Thorstein Veblen, who interpreted what consumption by the rich is
as an attempt to show up their wealth. “In his view, the lavish summer mansions
of 19th-century industrialists in Newport, R.I., were valued less for their own
sake than for the fact that they marked their owners as people of wealth and
According to Veblen Showing of
wealth is less important than he thought.
In his articles he says “the Rich buy luxury goods for several motives, even
the ones showing up their wealth do find ways of doing that. Why buy an expensive
good when you can show your riches just as effective with an equally expensive
good that you actually like? To be sure, billionaires are often willing to
spend enormous sums for beautiful things that can’t be duplicated at low cost.
But almost none of them would want to buy more of something simply because its
price had risen”.
If they were
merely chasing Veblen goods, the rich would be easily exploited by the
purveyors of luxury items. Yet the markets for these goods are among the most
bitterly contested, and not just because the stakes are so high. Thousands of
wine producers spend small fortunes trying to achieve 96-point Robert Parker
ratings, but very few get them.
The rich, of
course, are willing to spend more, often a lot more, for products that deliver
quality improvements they value. But few of them want to throw money away. In
that respect, they’re like middle-income Americans, many of whom don’t feel
especially prosperous these days. Yet relative both to current world standards
and to living standards of the past, middle-income Americans are incredibly
wealthy. And when viewed from the perspective of those standards, much of their
current consumption is strikingly similar to that of today’s rich.
Each day, for
instance, many of us consume espresso brews priced at what would be almost a
week’s wages in other parts of the world. We’d be offended if someone described
these purchases as attempts to display our wealth. And we’d be puzzled if
someone said we’d buy even more lattes if our favorite cafe were to raise its
prices. The coffee just tastes better, we’d say, and we’re willing to pay a
premium for that.
Luxury markets are
already important, and with inequality poised to grow further, these markets
will become ever more so. Those who fail to understand them cannot hope to
understand what drives the world economy.
That goal will
remain elusive until we recognize that the wealthy are essentially similar to
the rest of us. They just have a lot more money.