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Conspicuous Consumption, Then and Now.

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In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Thorstein Veblen comments on the influence of conspicuous consumption on other values (he calls them "habits of thought")

"The principle of conspicuous waste guides the formation of habits of thought as to what is honest and reputable in life and in commodities. In so doing...the canon of honorific waste may, immediately or remotely, influence the sense of duty, the sense of beauty, the sense of utility, the sense of devotional or ritualistic fitness, and the scientific sense of truth."

Discuss the influence of conspicuous consumption on a "habit of thought" (honesty, love, duty, beauty, truth, utility, happiness, or any other value -- just choose one).

Use The House of Mirth for examples from the past; use additional examples from articles, films, TV, advertisements, etc., or from real events, to bring your discussion up to the present time. And please note that Veblen believed that conspicuous consumptions operated even among the poorest of populations during the worst of times.

Here are some examples of the influence of conspicuous consumption on a "habit of thought" (value). Choose one (only one) value, such as honesty, responsibility to family, patriotism, obeying the law, keeping promises, or any other. Write about how conspicuous consumption has affected the idea of that particular value. Use examples from The House of Mirth and from society today.

Let me give an example:
Value: appreciation of nature.

Usually one's appreciation of nature is expressed by walking or hiking, looking at scenery, camping, hunting, fishing, gardening, environmental projects, etc. But there are ways in which this value, appreciation of nature, can be subtly changed by the influence of conspicuous consumption. Example from The House of Mirth:

In The House of Mirth Lily takes a walk hoping that Selden will follow her. After a while, she sits down to wait in a "charming" spot in the woods. "Lily was not insensible to the charm or to the fact that her presence enhanced it; but she was not accustomed to taste the joys of solitude except in company, and the combination of a handsome girl and a romantic scene struck her as too good to be wasted. No one, however, appeared to profit by the opportunity." For Lily, nature is only to be appreciated as a setting for her own beauty, and is only valuable if someone is there to see her. Notice the use of the word "profit" -- it's as though Lily is a product (an investment product) and nature is part of her packaging, but no one is there to buy.

Examples from today's world:
1. Today some people "consume" nature or use it merely as a backdrop or symbol. When visiting a scenic spot, this type of person barely looks at it, except as it appears on the LCD screens of their cameras and camcorders. Scenic spots provide the "takeaways"; photos, videos, souvenirs, this person can show to others to impress them.

2. For those who still hike, camp, hunt, or fish, the huge array of gadgets and equipment available provides a major opportunity for conspicuous consumption. As for the functionality of these items, most of them are designed to help nature lovers consume nature more efficiently?while avoiding direct contact!
From these two examples, we can conclude that (at least for some people) conspicuous consumption has had a strong role in determining what it means to "love nature."

In writing state your main idea at the beginning. (It is crucial to understand that the topic is THE INFLUENCE OF CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION ON SOME OTHER VALUE: Use the same value for both sets of examples, from The House of Mirth, and from today.)

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Solution Summary

Explains conspicuous consumption and its impact on value. 360 Words.

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If we continue with the same value, ie, appreciation of nature or surroundings or tourist spots, we often see today that people are more interesting in making their updates on social networking sites such as facebook or twitter and busy uploading pictures of the place on facebook, etc. rather than enjoying the beauty of the nature or surroundings. People are influenced by conspicuous consumption in the sense that they want to boast among their friends and social circle about their trip or visit to the nature, rather then enjoying and appreciating ...

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  • BCom, SGTB Khalsa College, University of Delhi
  • MBA, Rochester Institute of Technology
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