by Hari Greenough
Reading response to “Conspicuous Consumption” by Thorstain Veblen, from the book The Theory of the Leisure Class
For me the article was really about a break down (explanation) of the class system and the way in which people consume, or how they feel, that they should be consuming is directly related to the society, culture or Class they come from
At the begining of the article the author explains the consumption of alcohol, for me the first thing that came to mind was whisky. the idea I believe Veblenm was trying to get across was that the standard of product you consume (such as a single malt or mix) shows the status of the consumer, and with product like alcohol, there are very specific social guidelines about how or what you are consuming, you are essentially judged on your choice by your peers, he also mentioned getting drunk, and how getting drunk was a sing that you could afford to be so leisurely, I think a modern day approach to this would be to look at the idea bar and clubs, wether you can afford to be in the plush vip lounge, with comfy sofa e.c.t or the alternative on a bar stool at the bar. is also talked about women and there consumption of alcohol, and how this tends to be a reflection of her husband or partner, and how if she was to consume more than she needs then this is a luxury, and a reflection that her partner can afford this
This made me think of champagne, a drink that is usually advertised towards women has a certain mystic around it, this could be becouse of this theory, that the drink is assosiated with women and excessive consumption, which gives it this sense of luxury
He then went on to talk about the way in which different classes consume, and how there certain rules can be used to distinguish you to a certain class. should we drink a single malt whisky imported from scotland or a mix branded bottle, sends different signals to different classes, and what that drink means. the idea of “stealth wealth” came to mind, and garagiste (small home made wines) a brand only know to the few in the know, he also said it’s all about “cultivating your tastes” this also went as a far as talking about one’s manners, you must behave in a certain way, manners are also a way of showing your taste levels, as well as the amount you consume, he says, if we were to lower our level of consuming, or even stop, instinctively there is a social rule that we become inferior in this area.
He also examined how the class system changes as you move down the scale, at the top, the work of servants, family e.c.t. are all to improve the notability of the master of the household, when you move down to the middle and lower middle classes the system changes slightly, where the husband is working to provide the wife with a certain standard, as I could understand it, this is because that there becomes a certain social acclaim to having a wife who doesn't need to work. and can afford to be leisurely, the author also made comment on the fact that the more leisurely the actively of the wife, the more social status there is, such as spending the day shopping, decorating e.c.t have all become the stereotype of the housewife. these activities also changed depending on wether you are in the country or the city, and how the city cultivated the culture or continuously trying to out do your neighbors.