Sociology Index


Conspicuous consumption is the display of individual possession and consumption of expensive goods. Veblen Effects arise from the desire to achieve social status by signaling wealth through conspicuous consumption. The term, conspicuous consumption, as used by Thorsten Veblen, conveys the idea of a society where social status is earned and displayed by patterns of consumption. In conspicuous consumption the drive toward spending on an unuseful good comes from the desire to enter clubs and a social status effect. Other related concept to conspicuous consumption is Counter-Veblen Effect.

Conspicuous Consumption In America

American lifestyle revolves all about consumption. Conspicuous consumption is a form of endurance sport for Americans. Costco is a chain of stores for the privileged conspicuous consumer. Costco is just one of the chains that test your endurance, and provide entertainment and great shopping experience. Conspicuous consumption is so widespread that the modern American elites have recoiled from accumulating mere goods now that globalisation has made them affordable to the middle class. Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor at the University of Southern California, argues in “The Sum of Small Things”, that Americans have begun consuming the fruits of “conspicuous production”. Inconspicuous consumption, the true symbol of high status, is conspicuous non-consumption.

Veblen Effects And Conspicuous Consumption

Veblen Effects arise from the desire to achieve social status by signaling wealth through conspicuous consumption and symbolic communication. The term conspicuous consumption, explains the practice by consumers of using goods of a higher quality and quantity than that might be considered necessary in practical terms. The American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Veblen identified two distinct characteristics of goods as providing utility. The first is what he called the “serviceability” of the good, that the good gets the job done. The other characteristic of a good is what Veblen called its “honorific” aspect. Driving a luxury car shows that the consumer can afford to drive an automobile that others may admire. The vehicle is thus an outward display of one’s status in society.

Examples Of Conspicuous Consumption

Examples of conspicuous consumption are wearing diamonds, fur coats and driving expensive cars. The fact that one drives a car implies that one is wealthy enough not to have to take public transportation, but a luxury automobile conveys still-higher status in society, it shows that one does not have to drive an economy car.

Conspicuous Consumption and Social Segmentation - Fernando Jaramillo & Fabien Moizeau - Journal of Public Economic Theory, Volume 5 Issue 1.
The idea that conspicuous consumption has an impact on social segmentation. Though people do not value conspicuous goods they are in a signalling race in order to benefit from social interaction within a community. Since conspicuous consumption is a pure waste of money Pareto analysis could improve taxation policy.

Conspicuous Consumption versus the Protestant Ethic: The View from Pepys’s Diary - Donald F. Dixon
Journal of Macromarketing, Vol. 21, No. 2, 146-155 (2001).
Abstract: The contradiction between Veblen’s "conspicuous consumption" and the belief in thrift, discipline, and hard work that Weber associates with the Protestant ethic.

When conspicuous consumption becomes Inconspicuous Consumption: the case of the migrant Hong Kong consumers - Chung E.; Fischer E. - Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 18, Number 6, 2001
Abstract: Hong Kong is where conspicuous consumption rules. Whether this peculiar consumer behavior would still be transparent among Hong Kong people who have emigrated to Canada. There is no support for the proposition that conspicuous consumption is related to a person's ethnicity.

Conspicuous Consumption, Social Status and Clubs 

Assessing the role of architecture in conspicuous consumption in the middle minoan I–II periods Ilse Schoep
This observation urges a reassessment not only of the term 'palatial' architecture but also of the nature and location of power in Middle Bronze Age Crete and architecture as a medium of elite conspicuous consumption.

How Blacks Use Consumption to Shape their Collective Identity: Evidence from marketing specialists - Michele Lamont, Virag Molnar, Princeton University - Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol. 1, No. 1, 31-45 (2001).
This article develops a 'social identity' perspective to the study of consumption. Marketing professionals who equate social membership with conspicuous consumption believe that African-Americans use consumption to defy racism and share collective identities valued in American society.

Advertising and Conspicuous Consumption
Daniel Krahmer (Freie Universitat Berlin)
Abstract: The key idea is that advertising informs the public of brand names and creates the possibility of conspicuous consumption by rendering brands a signalling device.

"Wedding Celebrations as Conspicuous Consumption: Signaling Social Status in Rural India." Bloch, Francis, Vijayendra Rao, and Sonalde Desai. 2004. - Journal of Human Resources, Volume 39, Number 3 (Summer) 2004 
We develop a status signaling model of wedding celebrations where the size of the celebration signals the quality of the new groom’s family and the enhanced social status of the bride’s family.

Conspicuous Consumption and Sophisticated Thinking
Wilfred Amaldoss, Sanjay Jain
Abstract: Consumers purchase conspicuous goods to satisfy not only material needs but also social needs such as prestige. We propose a monopoly model of conspicuous consumption and examine how purchase decisions are affected by the desire for exclusivity and conformity.