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Symbolic Consumption and the Social Construction of Product Characteristics

  • Ulrich Witt

    ()

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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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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  1. Bernard Bourgeois & Phuong Nguyen & Pier-Paolo Saviotti & Michel Trommetter, 2005. "Variety and the evolution of refinery processing," Post-Print halshs-00003937, HAL.
  2. Sugden, Robert, 1989. "Spontaneous Order," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 85-97, Fall.
  3. Saviotti, P. P. & Metcalfe, J. S., 1984. "A theoretical approach to the construction of technological output indicators," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 141-151, June.
  4. Radner, Roy & Rothschild, Michael, 1975. "On the allocation of effort," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 358-376, June.
  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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Pier Paolo Saviotti, 2001. "special issue: Variety, growth and demand," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 119-142.
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