Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
I like Veblen too, but his work needs to be looked at with the added insights that have developed since he wrote.

One of the things is that he brought a certain austere view of life to his work which colored his thinking. It makes for great invective, but slightly biased investigation.

The principle change in the study of consumerism since his day, I think, is the understanding of how marketing and propaganda can influence behavior. People are now frequently persuaded to act in ways that are at odds with their own self-interest. This ranges from the trivial of the annual changes in women's fashions, to adopting the themes of racial or cultural superiority which leads to wars and mass annihilation.

People seem to fall into several broad groups psychologically.
At the top are the amoral power hungry - Stalin, Hitler, etc. (Perhaps 1% of the population?)

Below them are those who "need to believe". These are the ones Robert Altemeyer calls RWA's (right wing authoritarians). They follow a strong leader unquestioningly and are immune to facts which contradict their beliefs. There is a strong correlation between them and religious and social conservatives. In the US currently many of them are Evangelical Christians. (Estimated to be about 20% of the population.)

Next down are the weak followers. This is probably the biggest sector. (My guess 50+% of the population). They either go along so as not to stand out, or keep out of the way if there are strong spits of opinion. Politically they are the big percentage that doesn't vote or seldom votes. Since choices are made by others that are more committed their options are limited for them, especially in the market place. Try to buy an 80 mpg auto in the US.

Finally there are the 20% or so of people who reject the conventions. They may drop out, or accommodate to society as little as possible. I think they tend to be artists and artisans and go into academia or other "ivory tower" fields. Their disdain for convention also means that they end up influencing the direction society takes less than their numbers would indicate.  

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 10:49:35 AM EST
People are now frequently persuaded to act in ways that are at odds with their own self-interest.  This ranges from the trivial of the annual changes in women's fashions

No, no, no. Following the changes in fashions, especially with high-end stuff is an excellent, clear piece of conspicious consumption that demonstrates you have the time and money to do so. It's all about status display, which is not against the person's self-interest: it's essentiasl to it.

This  is one of the failings of the utopians: people like status and currently it is derived from consumption. You have to provide acceptable substitutes. As energy gets more expensive, conspicious consumption of energy will become even more of a status symbol.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 11:04:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've long wondered how to get people to compete over who consumes less rather than who consumes more. I haven't the slightest idea of how to bring that about as the whole concept of status would seem to preclude it.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 03:35:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
kcurie is in favour of a potlatch economy, in which status is linked to how much you give away rather than hoard or consume.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 03:55:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the potlatch economy is where Veblen got his intellectual start--it is mentioned in "Theory of the Leisure Class."

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 05:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well sure, but how do we make that happen?

And is it sustainable from the standpoint that your consumption based neighbor will just run you over with his greater economic and (likely) military might?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 05:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Top Diaries

Occasional Series