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Conspicuous Consumption as American Economic Policy - Literature review Example

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According to the author of the paper, it is not hyperbolic to suggest that in America one cannot do anything or go anywhere without being subject to advertising. Obviously this is the case inside one’s house while watching television, or when strolling through a mall, or when sitting in a doctor’s waiting room reading a magazine…
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Download file to see previous pages While the grandparents of today’s moviegoers could pay twenty-five cents and see two movies, a newsreel, a serial, coming attractions, and a cartoon, those grandchildren today pay up to ten dollars for the privilege of watching anywhere from five to ten minutes of commercials finally settling in for their one movie. A movie that typically will contain more product placements than the average moviegoer could imagine. All this advertising is built upon one the same concept: Convincing people to buy things they may, but probably don’t really need, in order to keep the American economy chugging along. The American economy, and by association the entire global economy, is powered by the engine of consumption, by the seemingly unquenchable thirst of citizens to buy the next big thing; this overreliance on one aspect of economic growth has left the American economy, and by extension the global economy, vulnerable to the ground swelling effort known collectively for the purposes of this paper as the anti-consumer movement to gain such a foothold in the process that it could conceivably lead to catastrophic consequences that would be felt around the globe.

Although the term conspicuous consumption has been credited to Thorsten Veblen (1934), the concept as it has worked its way into dominating contemporary economics can be traced back to Karl Marx and his theory of commodity fetishism, with both theories working together to subtly create the perfect driver of that economic engine: the unsatisfied consumer. Veblen’s conception of particularly conspicuous consumerism has its roots in the more obvious division of wealth at the turn of the last century. During the time in which Veblen wrote, the divide between the rich and the poor was much more easily ascertained than it is now, although the actual real income divide may not have narrowed as significantly since then as it seems. Veblen focuses on what he terms “pecuniary emulation.” Pecuniary emulation is just a rather fancy way of saying that what the poor were trying their best to do during was to “keep up with the Joneses.” Veblen’s explanation of emulation locates it at the root of ownership; in other words once our immediate material needs are met, we buy items for their conspicuous nature, to emulate those in higher earning strata; furthermore this emulation doesn’t end at the consumer level, but wends its way into the very fabric of the economic institution and from there to every facet of the entire social structure. ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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