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Stop no.

Not going to happen, but create social sanctions that make this sort of behavior socially unacceptable?

Yes.

The Swedes have it (lagom).  I know that it's a folk aphorism against the American Amish "All things in moderation." and the belief that one should be "plain" in the sense that they do not seek to distinguish themselves from others based upon their material possessions.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a recognition that the value of equality needs to has to prevail in the vast majority of social relations if democracy is going to work in the long term?

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 04:08:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Following your chart above, maybe we could say that it would be better if society frowned on financial expenditure on materials (=products) once levels 1 and 2 (physiological and safety) had been attained, as the others are "psychological" and could be tied to status but it would be clear that if someone tried to buy their way to (e.g.) friendship, respect of others, and creativity by buying objects as opposed to buying education (e.g. individual lessons) or time (e.g. in a retreat or a walking expedition) etc...

...then they were "over consuming"--that once physiological well-being and safety had been attained...and then there could be a discussion about what minimum objects are needed (depending on location) in order to be both physiologically sound and safe (where "safe" would, I think, be the big issue, sorta like "how rich is 'rich'"...)

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 04:21:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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
[ Parent ]
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
[ Parent ]
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
[ Parent ]
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
[ Parent ]
The Swedes have it (lagom).  I know that it's a folk aphorism against the American Amish "All things in moderation." and the belief that one should be "plain" in the sense that they do not seek to distinguish themselves from others based upon their material possessions.

i was exposed to various similar concepts while growing up, (in the uk) such as:

discretion is a mark of nobility.

to be modest and self-effacing is the mark of a gentleman.

flamboyance is vulgar.

etc.

i think it was known as 'having class' (whatever your provenance), 'being tasteful', 'appropriate', whatever.

taken all the way, this could be dull, but still perhaps better than the flagrant ostentation we see flashed before our eyes daily!

a little dull is ok, if it means we can keep our habitat habitable...


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 06:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that this idea is English.

But there's a distinction made in the US between the nouveau riche and old money.  Part of which is that old money (see the Kennedys, etc)understand that part of their social role is to provide charity for those who don't have.

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 07:06:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, i wasn't raised in france, but it's interesting that what you describe was referred to as 'noblesse oblige' in england, perhaps revealing that there is no similar term in english.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 07:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know that it's that meaningful. for a long time the  english nobility were basically French, and the english language does grab terms from anywhere and adds them to the mix. Noblesse oblige is unusual, in that it isn't just assumed to be English and has kept its french identity.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 08:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Think "Potlatch"
North Western Indians when they found themselves posessed of a surfeit of wealth, had a dynamite party and gave it all away. Giving became a source of status, instead of getting.

Man, is that beautiful heresy.

 

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

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:17:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Among the Kwaikutul of the American Northwest, there was a process of challenge, where one chief would destroy blankets, etc, and the other chief would be challenged to destroy an equivalent amount.  To do so showed the status of the chief, to fail broke the chiefs reputation.

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 11:35:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your selection of the Kwaikutl iteration of the the potlatch- a thousands-year-old, cross-cultural custom--- is the traditional one, and is pretty narrow.
My point was that we are considering the relationship of possessions and status, and that it's sure gonna change.
The more typical potlatch concept has to do with giving away of "stuff" as an act that accrues status, instead of the eternal collection of stuff, and the position of having less is often more admirable than having more.

Interesting. N'est pas?

"Potlatches were social occasions given by a host to establish or uphold his status position in society. Often they were held to mark a significant event in his family, such as the birth of a child, a daughter's first menses, or a son's marriage. Potlatches are to be distinguished from feasts in that guests are invited to a potlatch to share food and receive gifts or payment. Potlatches held by commoners were mainly local, while elites often invited guests from many tribes. Potlatches were also the venue in which ownership to economic and ceremonial privileges was asserted, displayed, and formally transferred to heirs.
----
The significance and nature of gifting in Northwest Coast potlatches has varied through time and across cultures. It is commonly portrayed as extremely competitive, with hosts bankrupting themselves to outdo their rivals and aggressively destroying property. While this form of gifting characterized practices of northern groups such as the Kwakiutl, such competition would have been considered inappropriate during Nuu-chah-nulth or Salish potlatches on the southern coast.'

Buncha savages with quaint customs? Or several millenium of human experience that we choose not to look at?

http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/potlatch/page4.html

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 06:34:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what is it with the destruction, especially amped up with competition, that rings so familiar?

i know, watching the who smashing guitars, handcrafted with care, and desired by the screaming hordes...

i wonder if any indians slept too cold because the chief was showing off?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:38:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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