Two Interior Schemes in Relation to Thorstein Veblen's Theory of Conspicuous Consumption Essay

Pages: 8 (2507 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Recreation

Conspicuous Consumption: Design and Purpose

We all know the importance of showing others the best side we have; we do it for the sake of reputation, for our own benefit as well as for the benefit of others. We make sure before we go out that we shower twice, put on our best clothes, dab on good scents, and display jewelry that isn't exactly cheap. We make our riches conspicuous, even if we don't have much of them, and in so doing we become statistical data for Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class,

a classical economic text devoted to tracing the roots of "conspicuous consumption" of the rich -- for Veblen wrote in the Gilded Age, the age of robber barons, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts, with its glaring inequities between rich and poor -- to the days of savage barbarianism. The connection between sloth, indolence, and barbarianism, which goes back to the lengthy discourse of civilization, now obtains an added element, that of consumption, which allows us to assess barbarianism from an economic viewpoint.

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Indeed, much of the modern lifestyle has proved to be a democratization of conspicuous consumption wherein the overt display of waste is a prized contribution to social status. The leisure class, once restricted to a precious few, has now come to include a large majority of the population of the West. We pride ourselves on how much we know about sports in order to display how much time we have to waste; we pride ourselves on how many movies we own (currently in DVD form, a sharp upgrade from VHS due to the former's glittering bottoms) in order to display both the amount of time we waste and the cash we have to spend; we pride ourselves on how many degrees we have earned, not because of the education we have received (for surely a knowing observer can tell that little education is actually received in universities)

TOPIC: Essay on Two Interior Schemes in Relation to Thorstein Veblen's Theory of Conspicuous Consumption Assignment

but instead for the purpose of showing off our ability to spend, in many cases, $40,000-plus per year, while putting off any sort of important labor which would earn income, for at least 4 years and maybe 6, and in rare cases as many as 12-15 years. Environmentalists make their livings complaining of the enormous waste of resources entailed in the modern way of life, claiming (whether truly of falsely) that this waste in fact threatens to make its own perpetuation impossible.

No segment of the modern way or life is more geared towards conspicuous consumption than that of leisure, which, as Veblen notes, is one of the major ways in which we display our superiority:

"This direct, subjective value of leisure and of other evidences of wealth is no doubt in great part secondary and derivative. It is in part a reflex of the utility of leisure as a means of gaining the respect of others, and in part it is the result of a mental substitution. The performance of labor has been accepted as a conventional evidence of inferior force: therefore it comes itself, by a mental short-cut, to be regarded as intrinsically base."

It is therefore the object of this paper to connect the role of leisure and superiority in the leisure class and its use of conspicuous consumption with the interior design of venues which aim at pleasant gratification of wasted time. For this purpose I will examine the Pantages Theater in Hollywood and The Venetian casino in Las Vegas, two edifices constructed with marvelous and impressive intentional waste.

The Pantages Theater in Hollywood is home to many of the best-selling theatrical performances on tour: West-Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, Hair, A Chorus Line, and the like are played for audiences of well-to-do Los Angelenos, most of whom come from high professional backgrounds. They are congregated to observe a performance and, yes, to waste time and money. Again in the words of Veblen, "abstention from labor is not only an honorific or meritorious act, but it presently comes to be a requisite of decency."

Sitting in their comfortable, padded chairs, the audience can spend $3 for a can of Coke and sit back and enjoy the voices of some of the theater's best voices.

More than the waste of the audience, however, the Pantages Theater itself is a pleasant display of how to waste resources that could feed the entirety of the African population. Immediately upon entering the building, a patron sees a vast empty space, which I would guess is 60 feet across and 40 feet front-to-back, for a total of 2400 square feet, or the size of a small house, one which, given the population and housing market of Los Angeles, would sell for a minimum of at least $500,000. Over this empty space flows a luscious red carpet of the finest fabric, walking upon which a person feels as though he is on the clouds.

The ceiling at this juncture is somewhere between boxed and round, giving the air of extreme workmanship and expense. On either side of this lobby is a column which appears to be made of marble, adding yet another glimpse into the Oriental luxury which has been transplanted over to the Occident. Stairs lead up on either side to one higher level from which the poorer folk -- those who are rich, but not that rich -- or those who are so inclined -- for the view is better from up there, according to many -- can view the show.

Not only do stairs lead up to the higher level of the auditorium, but on the sides of the lobby, wide, shallow stairs -- which serve absolutely no purpose but to display conspicuous consumption -- lead customers to spacious restrooms. Though the restrooms themselves are not examples of conspicuous consumption, as anyone who has had to go after a show can attest, the atmosphere surrounding them gives off such an air. So much for the entrance to the theater and its surroundings; now on to the theater itself.

Once you enter the auditorium, you stare straight at a curtain made of the finest thread and colored so as to please the eye of the regal observer. For several minutes before the show, as you speak with those in neighboring seats and recognize those whom you never expected to be there but thought you might see there, you are impressed by this curtain even if you do not stare at it intently. Yet once the show begins, that curtain -- which could just as well be black, white, or lime green and serve the exact same purpose -- is removed for Act I.

Even then, as Act I begins, you are drawn to the workmanship of the balconies and of the walls surrounding the stage, which are intricately designed with all sorts of scenes and symbols but you cannot tell with what in particular as they are so small -- and for the moment it is so dark -- that you cannot truly see them. This workmanship betrays mass expenditure and holds, at the end, but little value for anyone but the owner of the theater, whose expenditure built it and who profits from the awe with which it inspires his audience, encouraging them to come back in the hopes that they will see some new display of conspicuous consumption.

In consideration, then, of the Pantages Theater, and especially of its interior design, we can see a most compelling example of the validity of Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class. What, now, about The Venetian?

Its very name evokes the most conspicuous era of luxury of which we can think -- an age which was not necessarily as luxurious as we may imagine, but which was characterized by the leisure of thinkers who contributed great mathematical, scientific, literary, historical, and political work, works of art including paintings, sculptures, and frescoes, and kings who used mercenary armies to conquer and centralize -- and The Venetian, seeking that evocation of the Renaissance, uses its interior design to give an air of conspicuous consumption. Like the Pantages, it is covered with a sumptuous red carpet, yielding an aura of royalty, and the red carpet is gilded with designs. Like the Pantages, it is characterized by extensive spatial lacunas, as in its Sports-Book, which has ten times the space it would ever need.

The walls, like the Pantages, are neither boxed nor rounded, but lie somewhere in between, again yielding that same air of excessive workmanship. As the casino's various departments cover areas neither confined nor completely unbounded, they attract the patronage of those who are in casinos to gamble some money -- to not be confined by the strict laws of morality or of economy -- and not to gamble too much money -- to not be completely unbounded in expenditures which will likely go to complete waste. But they also yield an air, like the walls, of extreme workmanship, extreme design, which gives them an aura of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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