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Conspicuous Consumption

Class Consciousness

  • Class Consciousness refers to a set of theories and philosophies that focus on the differences and problems with economic classes of people.
  • Of the hundreds of theories within Class Consciousness, we'll focus on two
    1. Conspicuous Consumption
    2. Commodification
  • Both of these concepts have the same concern of Alienation.

Who Created This?

  • Commodification: No One
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Thorstein Veblen

General Guidelines

What is Alienation

  • Alienation is the symptom of both of the theories in this section.
  • Alienation concerns when people feel disconnected from one another.
  • As we'll see in the following paragraphs, people have difficulty meeting people; instead, they meet the other person's economic position in life or ascribed title and role.
  • Many philosophies and philosophers see alienation as one of the prime causes of strife between people and within each person's mind.
  • Alienation prevents interconnectedness and undermines what Schwarzenegger points out in his 2017 University of Houston Commencement Address[Video]
  • Alienation is the opposite of oneness: What Would Happen If Everyone Truly Believed Everything Is One?" [Article]:
    "New research suggests a belief in oneness has broad implications for psychological functioning and compassion for those are outside of our immediate circle. . . . People who believe that everything is fundamentally one differ in crucial ways from those who do not. In general, those who hold a belief in oneness have a more inclusive identity that reflects their sense of connection with other people, nonhuman animals, and aspects of nature that are all thought to be part of the same 'one thing'."

What is Conspicuous Consumption

  • Conspicuous Consumption, literally defined, means to consume (buy and show off) goods and services in a very public manner, so as to make sure others know the person has that product.
    • Most examples of Conspicuous Consumption concern rich people showing off their expensive items such as clothes, cars, and houses.
    • However, Conspicuous Consumption occurs when anyone's status with an in-group(of any economic level) sets them apart from others.
  • Payless Shoes pulled a stunt to show people's desperate attachment to conspicuous consumption.
  • Currently, showing off one's productivity is a new class power, such as the wealthy justifying "the existence of an imperial class by showing superhuman levels of industry." Think Elon Musk.
  • And business has reached into the middle class as well, indicating a status level.
  • A more A more philosophical approach to busyness
  • Chickens, evidently, are a conspicuous consumption item now too.
  • Premium writing utensiles serve as a status symbol
  • Currently, conspicuous consumption occurs on social media
  • To some people, Conspicuous consumption is caused and maintained from our view of work.

Conspicuous Consumption and Alienation

Writing about Conspicuous Consumption in your film

  • Look in the film for STUFF that characters buy, show off, and/or use to set themselves apart (often as "better") from others.
  • Discuss how the utilization of that STUFF causes that person to be alienated from others, and then continue on to discuss how that alienation affects that character.
  • In other words, it is NOT enough to merely suggest the character conspicuously consumes. AND it's not enough to simply say that such consumption causes alienation. MOSTLY, discuss in what way/manner that alienation is detrimental to the character, either as consequence in the world or concerning their own mental state.

What is Commodification

  • Commodification is when people, unbeknownst to themselves, think of themselves as a commodity, a product to be bought and sold.
  • Commodification is easily experienced in the contest of "who has the higher ranking job in society."
    • In other words, we tend to interact and treat people based on their position in the social hierarchy. We also tend to change our behaviour accordingly.
    • This whole mechanism makes us all easily fooled.
  • One central aspect in America when meeting new people is to ask (or be asked), "What do you do?"
    • STOP! Stop perpetuating Commodification.
    • Next time, tell them what you LIKE to do as enjoyment, not what you do as a job.
    • Watch them struggle as they try to figure out how you make money at playing video games, or drawing, or hanging out with friends.
  • If ever you hide (or hid) from work calling you on your day off, you've felt commodification. Why not answer? The fear that saying no will be held against you.
  • Why can they call you in on your day off, but you cannot (without repercussions) call off on your day to work?
  • A job, like a friendship, should be equal standing; a job should not be a friend that only takes from you and never helps you. (And no, just because they pay you a bare wage does not mean they own you; wages are for hours you are there, and nothing else)
  • The commodified perpetuate commodification onto others, which sustains each generation being commodified.

Writing about Commodification and Alienation

  • In your film, look for the instances when people's roles (job titles) influence how the characters interact with each other, or even dismiss others based on those others' jobs or perceived position in society.
  • For instance, the trope of a rich person being rude to a worker class.
  • Alienation occurs because people will not meet and interact with each other as people, as humans. Rather they interact with the COSTUME the person is wearing.
  • While role playing may be fun, we know during Halloween that someone dressed in a certain manner might act in that character's manner, but when we consider everyone in reality is ACTUALLY wearing costumes, we start to see the alienation and absurdity of treating people differently based on those costumes.
  • One of the reasons that Post-Apocalyptic films and shows appeal to me (and I think to many others) is that commodification ends with civilization.