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Symbolic Consumption and the Social Construction of Product Characteristics

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  • Ulrich Witt

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Abstract

As recognized since long, consumption serving to signal social status, group membership, or self-esteem is a socially contingent activity. The corresponding expenditures are motivated mainly by the symbolic value they have for transmitting the signal. However, this presupposes some form of social coordination on what are valid, approved symbols. Unlike consumption not serving signaling purposes, the technological characteristics of the goods and services consumed may be secondary – what counts is their socially agreed capacity to function as a symbol. The paper discusses in detail the cognitive underpinnings of social agreement on consumption symbols and a model of their spontaneous emergence.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2008-15.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2008-15

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Keywords: Length 16 pages;

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References

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  1. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899. "The Theory of the Leisure Class," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1899.
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  5. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467, May.
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  7. Pier Paolo Saviotti, 2001. "special issue: Variety, growth and demand," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 119-142.
  8. Paul Windrum, 2005. "Heterogeneous preferences and new innovation cycles in mature industries: the amateur camera industry 1955--1974," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(6), pages 1043-1074, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Safarzyńska, Karolina, 2013. "Evolutionary-economic policies for sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 187-195.
  2. John M. Gowdy & Denise E. Dollimore & David Sloan Wilson & Ulrich Witt, 2012. "Economic Cosmology and the Evolutionary Challenge," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-12, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  3. João Bernardino & Tanya Araújo, 2013. "On positional consumption and technological innovation: an agent-based model," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 23(5), pages 1047-1071, November.
  4. Liselot Hudders & Mario Pandelaere, 2012. "The Silver Lining of Materialism: The Impact of Luxury Consumption on Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 411-437, June.
  5. Kaus, Wolfhard, 2013. "Beyond Engel's law - A cross-country analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 118-134.
  6. Wolfhard Kaus, 2012. "Beyond Engel s Law - Pursuing an Engelian Approach to Welfare A Cross Country Analysis," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-028, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.

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