Conspicuous conservation

In: Uncategorized

23 Nov 2006

An astute although cynical article by Toby Young in the Spectator (“The social climber’s case for going green”, 25 November) on how conspicuous conservation has replaced conspicuous consumption. The rich used to flaunt their supposed superiority by consuming high profile luxury goods. Today, in contrast, they are desparate to highlight themselves as conservationist:

“In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), [Thorstein] Veblen coined the phrase ‘conspicuous consumption’ to describe the wasteful habits of those at the top of American society. In his view, the reason the rich and powerful spent so much more than they needed on things like housewares was to display their membership of the leisure class. Silver knives and forks, for instance, might not be as practical as cutlery made from steel, but their very impracticality made them a positive status indicator. According to Veblen, wasting money and resources was a way for the privileged elite to advertise their superiority.

“At the beginning of the 21st century, the exact opposite is true: conservation, rather than waste, is the credo of the ruling class. For that reason alone it’s high time I jumped on the bandwagon.”

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