Conspicuous Consumption

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  • Conspicuous Consumption
    • Thorstein Veblen
      • sociologist of Norwegian origins and head of the Efficiency Movement, most famous for his Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
        • This display Thorstein Veblen called ‘conspicuous consumption’, and he was critical of it on the grounds that it was invariably wasteful, and because, in his view, it implied increasing poverty amongst the lower classes in society.
      • Thorstein Veblen gave us terms like "conspicuous consumption" and "pecuniary emulation".
      • Veblen pointed a sharp criticism of the contemporary American market economy, which withdrew from the production title.
      • Veblen term for the latter phenomenon, conspicuous consumption has entered the English language as a usual expression.
    • What is it?
      • Veblen published a book in 1899 entitled The Theory of the Leisure Class. It was a response to the rise to power in America of extremely rich businessmen, who displayed their wealth in ostentatious houses and extravagant behaviour.
      • "expenditure on or consumption of luxuries on a lavish scale in an attempt to enhance one's prestige."
    • How does it relate to the novel?
      • The Great Gatsby presents a graphic illustration of how conspicuous consumption might become a measure of social status.
      • Tom Buchanan, who is certainly a member of the leisure class, so wealthy that he does not need to work, has a team of polo ponies which he takes with him on his travels. They provide him with entertainment, but they also announce his status to others.
      • Jay Gatsby has his mansion, he stages lavish parties and he is proud of a new hydroplane. The flamboyance of his lifestyle is seemingly remote from the drab world inhabited by George Wilson.
      • The worlds collide in the accident that kills Myrtle, and it is yet another example of conspicuous consumption, Gatsby’s expensive car, that leads Wilson to his victim.


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