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I'd argue far more that there's a difference in the nature of positional goods depending on the level of income and wealth inequality in a soceity.

In the 1960s in the US this took the form of one of the neighbors buying a riding lawnmower instead of a push lawnmower, or the outrageous Christmas light display.

Now it may mean gated communities, special hospitals, etc.

We can never make everyone equal, but we can create social norms that discourage the arms race mentality of consumer captitalism.  And encourage the formation of peer to peer social relationships rather than hierarchical ones.  That's the dirty little secret here.

Keep this shit up with the arms race mentality, and yuo just may wind up with a society in which most social relations involved extreme hierarchy with neither security nor autonomy for those on the bottom.  What then happens to democracy?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:30:46 PM EST
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In the 1960s in the US this took the form of one of the neighbors buying a riding lawnmower instead of a push lawnmower, or the outrageous Christmas light display.

That's my point: neither of these items comes under "physiological" or "safety" so the idea of "needing to mow one's lawn" should be questioned.

(I'm thinking of DeAnander's comment way back about a lawn being a desert in re: complex ecosystems.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:33:39 PM EST
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It's the idea of "needing to mow one's lawn on a riding lawnmower" as opposed to a "walking lawnmower".

Though riding a lawnmower can be quite poetic (q.v. David Lynch's The Straight Story).

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 29th, 2007 at 04:45:22 PM EST
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Keep this shit up wih the arms race mentality and you just may wind up with a society in which most social relations involve extreme hierarchy with neither security nor autonomy for those on the bottom.

Wrong tense, MfM.
The circumstances you fear are pretty much current events.
The last nuggets of security for many was their home equity . Boy, is that a thing of the past. Decent company pension plans or health care packages are an endangered species.
And the company (or school) you work for can and does tell you what to wear, where to live, what politics to profess, what car to drive--
At IBM, everyone wore a suit-- but dark grey suits were forbidden to the lower orders, as that was a "Management color".
You are right to fear the effect of a non-standard opinion on your academic career. At my last university, there were, in 1985, no PhD candidates in the psych department who were not behaviorists--Skinner was king.
When I questioned a faculty member on the issue of the ethical obligation for a social psychologist to hold the welfare of the individual as more important than the task to aid the company to more effectively manipulate the worker, I was told that such "anger-based" attitudes would "negatively influence my career".
Autonomy?  
And this sure was not the bottom.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 12:10:01 AM EST
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