Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Erynn Masi de Casanova
The term conspicuous consumption was coined by Norwegian American sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) in his 1899 book titled The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. Conspicuous consumption refers to an individual's public or ostentatious use of costly goods or services to indicate his or her wealth and high social status. In capitalist societies, this practice includes purchasing and publicly displaying expensive goods (commodities or status symbols) that are luxuries rather than necessities. Conspicuous consumption goes beyond simply fulfilling an individual's survival needs (food, shelter, clothing) and is characterized by what Veblen described critically as wastefulness. Veblen conceived of conspicuous consumption as a practice in which men engaged to demonstrate their wealth. However, he also described women as conspicuous consumers whose actions indexed the wealth of their husbands or fathers (in Veblen's time, women did not have a recognized separate social status). Conspicuous consumption can ...