Conspicuous Consumption and Capitalism in America

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Submitted By heo71
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Conspicuous Consumption and Capitalism in America

Thorstein Veblen (1899) described in his “The Theory of the Leisure Class” that Americans’ sole purpose of lavish, wasteful expenditures (conspicuous consumption) is to established prestige. The priority in life is not only an economic one, but also the constant attainment over our fellow man, especially in the competition for social status through material goods. He claims that the leisure class is by custom exempt or excluded from the industrial occupations, and is reserved for certain employments; it is a rite of passage. This self-interest to acquire a status symbol is evident in a capitalist society as economic dominance, which he insinuates creates idleness and economic stagnation. Clearly, he failed to recognize the ever-changing American society where conspicuous consumption is the heart of capitalism. While it seems that Veblen might not regard self-interest in respect to conspicuous consumption as a contributing factor to economic growth, Adam Smith might see conspicuous consumption as a way of increasing self-interest, resulting in healthy competition in a free market, and promoting a strong and thriving economy. Perhaps the most conspicuous consumption example of the modern day American culture is the reality television show, MTV Cribs. The show gives viewers a glimpse of the luxurious lives of musicians, movie stars and athletes, and the ridiculous material wealth these celebrities possess. Normally the half an hour show takes viewers through several celebrities’ homes and expensive toys, but in one particular episode, the whole thirty minutes was solely dedicated to the “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” rapper, 50 Cent. The show starts out with a security guard allowing access to a gate opening into his mega-mansion. The ridiculous, behemoth castle is 51,657 square feet on a 17.6 acres…...

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