A-Z of Personal Finance: C is for Conspicuous Consumption

A-Z final front cover“In 1899 Economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblem coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” in his book “The Theory of the Leisure Class” 1899. He argued that some consumption is intended to send a message about the consumers’ status rather than just to satisfy a need. Conspicuous consumption is the ostentatious display and consumption of resources by the wealthy class in particular, to advertise their wealth.

With the growing prosperity in some segments in society, we are continuously seeking ways to outdo each other by showing off. As the term “keeping up with the Jones” suggests, we measure our success against others around us and have become so consumed with the image of affluence, that we fail to be content with the happiness and satisfaction that comes from financial stability and good old fashioned family values.

The impact of conspicuous consumption

The impact of conspicuous consumption has several negative effects including serious societal implications. The upsurge in incidents of violence across the country is not an isolated phenomenon; it portrays a complex set of political, cultural and social trends that prevail in the polity.

The wide and ever widening abyss in incomes of the rich and poor, the incredible show of opulence and ostentatious living by the rich slowly gives rise to a sense of despondency, deprivation and degradation among much of the populace that lives largely in abject poverty. Most people on the short end of the economic divide, are resigned to their fate and appear to accept their lot, but a small minority becomes restive and translates its resentment and wrath into acts of violence and disorder.

Conspicuous spending sends a powerful message to a society, and in particular, an impressionable youth, that they must strive to make money by “hook or by crook”. On the contrary, they must be encouraged to value education, hard work, ambition and ability, and to realise that given the opportunity, they can and will succeed by dint of sheer hard work.

Nimi-AkinkugbeThe full text appears in “A-Z of Personal Finance” by Nimi Akinkugbe. Available in leading bookstores including Glendora Books, Laterna Books, Patabah, Terra Kulture, Quintessence, Jazzhole …and online from Jumia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Manna Books and AMV Publishing

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