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Drawing on a series of ethnographic cases, Isenhour suggests that contemporary links between status and consumption are rooted in a Western conceptualization of the economy as a separate realm, governed by rules independent of social priorities and normative structures. She argues that our efforts to “bend the curve” toward more sustainable forms depend on reimagining economic systems as a means toward the fulfillment of social priorities.
Status consumption is a major threat to environmental sustainability. In this volume, anthropologists and archaeologists explore the implications of status consumption for environmental sustainability across time and space as well as how the current destructive arc might be bent.
The collection of chapters included in this volume denaturalize dominant conceptualizations of status competition and consumption, drawing attention to alternative possibilities. The authors draw on a number of key themes recurring throughout the volume, including issues of governance and societal demographics to theorize diversity in status pursuits. Roscoe and Isenhour observe that issues of in/equity loom large and point to a number of political and policy-based implications that might help to bend the curve toward more sustainable futures.
This volume addresses current concerns about the climate and environmental sustainability by exploring one of the key drivers of contemporary environmental problems: the role of status competition in generating what we consume, and what we throw away, to the detriment of the planet. Across time and space, humans have pursued social status in many different ways - through ritual purity, singing or dancing, child-bearing, bodily deformation, even headhunting. In many of the world's most consumptive societies, however, consumption has become closely tied to how individuals build and communicate status. Given this tight link, people will be reluctant to reduce consumption levels – and environmental impact -- and forego their ability to communicate or improve their social standing. Drawing on cross-cultural and archaeological evidence, this book asks how a stronger understanding of the links between status and consumption across time, space, and culture might bend the curve towards a more sustainable future.