Term Paper: Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism

Pages: 11 (4653 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics  ·  Buy This Paper

Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism

What exactly is Conspicuous Consumption? It is nothing but the phenomenon of buying numerous services or products with the sole and explicit purpose of flaunting one's wealth. (Definitions of Conspicuous Consumption on the Web) Another method of describing Conspicuous Consumption is by looking at the evolution of the working class, and the difference between this class and the leisure class that is being formed today, bringing about a further division in the servant classes. It is this class of people, most of them who enjoy the pleasures of leisure, who have now taken it upon themselves to vicariously and explicitly go about their duty of being the consumer of a number of extraneous goods. Here, the very act of purchasing and of consumerism is taken as a show of wealth, and often these goods and services are beyond their means. (Chapter four, Conspicuous Consumption)

In the early stages of what is known as the 'predatory culture', the sole economic distinction was between an 'honorable' superior class that was made up, mainly, of able bodied men who could work hard, and an inferior class of those women who had to labor for a living, and this became an ideal scheme of life wherein men could very easily consume what women had to labor so hard to produce. (Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption) However, Conspicuous Consumption had very definite sociological impact, and this was seen in many spheres. Take the example of the purchasing behavior of two different Finnish Provinces over a specified period of time, as exhibited by them in their purchase of automobiles. The study revealed that the consumer's purchases are, in fact, tremendously influenced by the purchasing behavior of his neighbors, and this held true for more recent purchases, as well as for those neighbors who were closer in geographic location than further away.

It was also evident that in the purchase of automobiles, there was absolutely no place for emotional differences, like for example; envy or jealousy or even an urge to conform, and this meant that there was no interpersonal relationship and interference between neighbors while in the process of buying something like the automobile in question. The reason for this may be as simple as that of information sharing among various neighbors. Mainstream economists have long debated over the question of the impact that interpersonal effects would have on consumption, and Alfred Marshall, in his 'Principles of Economics', a treatise on nineteenth century economics, has made no reference to interpersonal effects, but at the same time, he has acknowledged the impact of these effects on consumption, and was even, at one time, chided by Thorstein Veblen, in the year 1898, for having failed to acknowledge the impact of these effects on consumerism. (Interpersonal effects in Consumption: Evidence from the Automobile Purchases of Neighbors)

Friedman, in 1957, rejected outright nay suggestion that interpersonal relations could have any sort of impact on consumerism, while others like Moregenstern, in 1948, and Stigler, 1950, did indeed acknowledge the presence of such effects on consumerism. What, exactly, is the meaning of an interpersonal effect that has been started as a result of information vs. behavior? It can be said that information economics would account for interpersonal effects in the case when the consumption of other people is taken as the evidence that the goods or the services have in fact been consumed, and this in turn would have the effect of resolving the uncertainty about the intrinsic utility that would be received from the very purchase of the good or the service. Therefore, information about the good, or the service would have been obtained and other information about the resale value of the good, and also the price that will have to be paid for the product. (Interpersonal effects in Consumption: Evidence from the Automobile Purchases of Neighbors)

Thus, behavioral economics would account for the effect or the impact of a good or service when the impact has in fact been influenced by the consumption of the goods, where it is driven by a basic need to conform to or revolt against whatever expectations others may have about them. At times, the motives of envy, jealousy or snobbery are evident at this point. Information models are made up of a large number of varieties, which may be rational, dynamic, or emotional. Rational models, for example, deal with the various observed actions of the different consumers, wherein the quality of a product or a service is appropriately revealed. This broad category falls within the realm of information, and the second category, which is that of static information, the different actions of all the various consumers are quite informative, especially if each consumer possesses private information, which means, that equilibrium prices would serve as efficient statistics for the measurement of information.

In dynamic information models, sequentiality is often exhibited, and this also means that the actions of a few individuals may lead to a type of 'herd' actions or behavior, which can even be fully and completely rational. In emotional models, where the 'keeping up with the Joneses' is more often than not the primary reason for a purchase of a service or a product, and the theories of Thorstein Veblen on the sociological analyses of the actual origins of the different preferences of the consumers can be used to explain the ways in which the upper classes generally attempt to differentiate and also distinguish themselves from the lower classes by the purchase of luxury goods and services, and the way in which the lower classes would attempt to emulate and imitate this type of behavior demonstrated by the upper classes. Here, the motive for such imitative behavior and actions can be taken as being quite unrelated to the basic utilitarian function of the good in itself. (Interpersonal effects in Consumption: Evidence from the Automobile Purchases of Neighbors)

The want and the need to consume is nothing new; it has been in existence for more than millions of years, and in general, people need to consume if they were expected to survive. The fact is that consumption however has been changing and evolving in nature, until it has reached a point when people most definitely want to make their lives even marginally easier, and in order to achieve this, they research the ways and means to do so, and thus end up using he resources available more efficiently, so that their lives as consumers would be easier and cost effective. With this has come the inevitable result of wanting to control the means of achieving an easier life, and as a result, consumer and consumption patterns has evolved over a period of time based on the people who can effectively control it. (Section: Behind Consumption and Consumerism-Creating the Consumer)

What are Consumer Goods, and how can one make sense of them? Consumer Goods mean any article that has been bought or that is used for the purpose of consumption in the family, or for personal use, or for household purposes. (Title 1.4, Layaway Practices: California Civil Code Section 1749-1749.4) Let us examine what the meaning of a 'consumer' is first. There are two types of consumers, and the first type is a household and an individual consumer of goods and services. The goods and the services that are intended for this type of consumer are known as 'final' or 'consumer goods' and services. How is it possible for these consumers to maximize the utility that they would gain forming these consumer products? When taken in a simpler sense, this can be taken to mean 'usefulness', but it is not as very simple as this in economic theory. Utility has a darker and also a much deeper meaning; Jeremy Bentham devised a 'felicitous calculus' which defined 'utile' as a unit of pain or of pleasure. This concept is an offshoot of the theory of Epicurus of 341 to 217 BC, a radical materialist, whose theory has at its basis the completely 'atheist' thought wherein the belief was in 'no God'. (Elemental Economics: Intermediate Economics)

Plato as well as Aristotle rejected this materialistic and pleasure seeking philosophy, and also managed to reject the fourth great economic theory, which was that of the 'Sophists'. The Church, in fact, rejected the theories of Epicurus, and embraced those of Aristotle and Plato, maybe because the former theory was atheistic. Bentham, however, with his theory of 'ethical hedonism', God did exist, and soon after this the Neo-Classical theory was created, and Karl Marx invented the dark 'Communism'. Quite a few economists and theorists of later years have been struggling to research consumer behavior, and one Lord Marshall, in 1920, expounded that the increase in wealth has been helping consumers to buy more and more things as the fancy took them, and this was done regardless of whether they would have any utility for them or not. In other words, it can be said that the consumer market, as it is known today, actually emerged in… [END OF PREVIEW]

Classical Theorists Essay

Classical Model and Keynesian Term Paper

Classical Musical Performance Review and Reflection Witnessed Thesis

Classical Conditioning Term Paper

Classical Causes of Criminal Behavior Man Pleads Term Paper

View 1,000+ other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism.  (2005, March 18).  Retrieved September 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/classical-sociological-accounts-consumerism/61866

MLA Format

"Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism."  18 March 2005.  Web.  15 September 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/classical-sociological-accounts-consumerism/61866>.

Chicago Format

"Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism."  Essaytown.com.  March 18, 2005.  Accessed September 15, 2019.