Conspicuous Consumption A Bit More Subtle (Leisha)

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Class Thursday and the documentary Born rich, juxtaposed with Veblen’s notion of conspicuous consumption has had me reeling. On one hand, there is an understanding that spending a great deal of money is not only expected but what is deemed appropriate and on the other hand there is this tight lipped notion that talking about money is fundamentally bad. For some, it may prove that times are changing and that for the truly upper class spending ostentatiously isn’t necessary or in vogue anymore. I would argue that this isn’t true, that although things may have changed slightly, people are showing off their wealth just as lavishly as they did before, only in more specific ways. The houses are big, the country clubs are posh and the clothing is magnificently stitched. In fact, it might be the conspicuous consumption and even conspicuous waste that allows these wealthy kids to remain so tight lipped about their actual fortunes. With a bedroom view that overlooks central park, it’s absolutely no wonder that numbers don’t have to be brought out to tell where Ivanka’s station in life is. Of course, noble’s in Veblen’s time were very similar. They had the carriages and the clothing, the servants and the titles. Once again we see a mixing of economic and cultural capital, with many of the children in born rich attempting to do something in order to prove they have some kind of class. The europeans were the most obvious in this way. They spent their lives “refining their palates” and devoting themselves to inculteration in order to seem worthy of the money they had, more so even then those who were considered new money. It’s strange how taking two documents that seem to contradict each other, ones who tell a wildly different story, overlapping them and discovering that they are all but identical. Conspicuous consumption, it seems, is the answer when actually flashing your wealth is taboo.


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