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This paper traces the roots of modern American conspicuous consumption and offers an explanation as to the underlying motive driving this unique consumption behavior. Further, it analyzes marketing's response to conspicuous consumption in both affluent and post-affluent societies. The desire to conspicuously consume dates back to tribal times when men possessed women and slaves as trophies of their status Vablen Since that time, although the players and what is consumed have changed, the game of ostentatious ownership has remained essentially the same, with the winners being awarded status, prestige and honor.
Early in the game, only the aristocratic elite could play. Yet as societies became industrialized, players of achieved wealth, or the nouveau rich, followed by those of moderate and even negligible success entered the game.
Some argue that flagrant consumptive behavior is the unfortunate result of capitalism VeblenMarx GalbraithToynbeeStanfield and Stanfieldwhile others note that material ownership helps us to define who we are GoffmanBelkSolomonMcCrackenLevy McCracken notes that "conspicuous and Marketing and converse consumption are especially important to the study of the history of consumption because they play such an important role in the growth of a consumer society' p.
Further, he suggests that by studying overt displays of wealth both between and within social groups, we may better understand what has propelled Western societies headlong into their present preoccupation with material possessions.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how modern American conspicuous consumption has developed through time and over societies.
First, three theories of conspicuous consumption are briefly reviewed. Then, a periodization scheme is used to explain and compare traditional, achieving, affluent Mason and post-affluent societies as they relate to conspicuous consumption.
Finally, an analysis of marketing's response to conspicuous consumption along with discussion of some more recent explanations of this unique consumption behavior are incorporated in this presentation.
The earliest of which was put forth by Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, first published in According to Veblenthe strength of one's reputation is in direct relationship to the amount of money possessed and displayed; i. He theorizes that "pecuniary strength" confers not only "invidious distinction', but also honor, prestige, and esteem within the community.
To Veblen, lavish spending was "symptomatic of the superfluous life-style of the rich. Wearing diamond-studded jewelry and overindulging in luxurious foods and alcohol Above all, as Veblen notes, the objects of conspicuous consumption must be wasteful, or possess no useful value, in order to reflect credibly on one's reputationpp.
Modernized Vablen's work, Duesenberry developed his own theory which he labeled the "demonstration" or 'bandwagon' effect. In essence, this effect is an attempt to "keep up with the Joneses" in order to preserve one's self-esteem McCormick A reverse theory of the bandwagon effect, also expressive of modern day consumptive behavior, is the 'snob" effect Mason, This theory states that people preoccupied with social status reject products that are perceived to be possessed by the common populace.
Thus, the 'snob" consumer seeks to purchase products which have limited availability.
This type of exclusive consumption guarantees a measure of social prestige Masonp. Combined, the Veblen, bandwagon and snob effects offer a skeletal picture of how conspicuous consumption has moved from the extremes of being an exclusive "invidious distinction' behavior Veblenp.
Between these extremes, various other schoiars have offered insights on buyer motivation to consume, further shedding light on conspicuous consumption behavior.'The shoe does a lot of marketing on its own' – How Converse uses niche stars to grow its cultural presence.
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Meaning, Measure, and Morality of Materialism, Pages A HISTORY OF CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION. Christine Page, Department of Marketing, University of Colorado. ABSTRACT - Conspicuous consumption refers to the ostentatious display of wealth for the purpose of acquiring or maintaining status or prestige.