Needing the Unnecessary

Topics: Oxford English Dictionary, Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous consumption Pages: 2 (459 words) Published: November 22, 2009
The luxury craze is breaking into the lives of people of all socioeconomic groups and beginning to spread around the globe. Nowadays, even the average American can drive a Mercedes Benz, shop at elite retail boutiques and enjoy a massage. What was once considered a luxury item is now considered a staple. For virtually any product out there, there is a designer alternative or luxury upgrades that everyone strives to obtain and outdo their pier, pushing normal standards to those of higher and sometimes ridiculous standards.

By looking into any standard English dictionary for the meaning of the word conspicuous, one gets a variety of lexicographic entries including “eye catching”, and “prominent;” but the word acquires a significantly different connotation in the context of “consumption” when it clearly indicated the phenomenon of “wasteful and lavish consumption expenses to enhance social prestige.” Based entirely on observation, more than a hundred years ago, Thorstein Veblen (1899) proposed that American rich were spending a significant portion of their time and money on unnecessary and unproductive leisure expenditures and coined the term conspicuous consumption to describe the behavior; this linguistic construct has been used so widely that it has entered into popular English lexicon only in this particular sense of the term (Oxford English Dictionary).

Luxury spending, over the last several years has been growing four times faster in the United States than anywhere else. Political leaders characterized the increasing desire for luxury items vital to the health of the American economy as a whole. All layers of society are experiencing and participating in the necessary consumption of unnecessary items and services that have become so readily available to everyday consumers. Luxury is everywhere and is almost impossible for us as consumers to avoid. We see luxury in storefronts, advertisements, radio, and much more. We imagine...
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