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Chapter 4 starts by distinguishing between long-term growth and short-term fluctuation. The former is determined by the supply-side factors of investment, education and technological progress, whereas the latter is affected by demand-side factors of consumption, investment and exports. Investment creates both short-term demand and long-term supply. China has enjoyed the highest investment rate in the world in the past few decades, made possible by its extraordinarily high savings rate. After evaluating several popular explanations for China’s high savings rate, the chapter argues for a cultural explanation. Although a high rate of savings and investment is one of China’s distinct advantages over all other developing countries, the popular press often describes China’s growth as seriously imbalanced, relying too much on investment and exports and too little on consumption. Chapter 4 shows why this popular view is misplaced. Much of the misunderstanding is caused by the failure to distinguish between long-term and short-term growth and the resulting failure to understand that economic development as long-term growth cannot be driven by consumption.
Using detailed spending and time use data from the Netherlands, this paper analyzes the causal effect of retirement on spending and time use decisions. Both total consumption and disaggregated consumption categories are considered. We do not find empirical evidence for drops in households' total non-durable spending at retirement. Our estimates suggest increases in spending at retirement on goods that are complementary to leisure, but no decreases in spending on goods that are replaceable by home production. The quantitative implication of our empirical results for the Life-Cycle Model is an intertemporal elasticity of substitution for leisure below unity.
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.
With the development of Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic technology and the ability to produce surpluses, ca. 35,000 years ago, the door was open for aggrandizers to pursue a number of surplus-based strategies to benefit themselves and transform cultures into the competitive consumption arenas familiar to us today.
A theory developed from New Guinea ethnography that finds status competition to be a conflict-management system also appears to apply to medieval England, where the system was monopolized by elites, and to quotidian life in contemporary Britain, albeit with a reduced reach and through an additional, novel avenue to status. These findings are deployed to discuss viable policy options for moderating environmentally damaging consumption in the contemporary world.
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.
Drawing on ethnographic material from Bangkok, I suggest that finding solutions for status-driven overconsumption is more complex than encouraging individuals to simply “consume less” and requires understanding how structural factors lead to heterogenous forms of consumption behavior. This leads to the question of what role inequality plays in overconsumption, and how these inequalities can be addressed in order to move closer toward our sustainability goals.
This chapter uses ethnohistorical information on prehispanic Andean kingdoms to illuminate how semiotic and material aspects of political economy are intertwined in premodern and modern approaches to various kinds of signs of social status. It argues that both anthropologists and mainstream economists tend to focus on semiotic aspects of human societies while largely ignoring their material conditions and repercussions, which are fundamental to grasping the role of identity and consumption in aggravating global inequalities and unsustainability.
Evidence of status competition in the US Southwest is subtle and often devoid of material excess, pushing archaeologists to challenge the ways in which they think about and search for social differences. Using data from the large Mimbres site of Galaz, we focus on the concept of antecedence, a form of social status derived from being viewed as a first-comer or the descendant of first-comers. Our results suggest that while archaeology can offer insights into status and consumption in the ancient past, broadening our views of what is possible, we must be cautious in applying those insights directly to the contemporary world.
Rich countries and their elites emit most of the greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change. Why should the poor and middle classes cut their emissions while privileged elites continue their irresponsible behavior toward the common good? This chapter draws on economic anthropology and treats the atmosphere as common property, suggesting some ways of controlling the free riding of the super wealthy.
Across the prehispanic Mesoamerican world, governance, leadership, and the ways that power was funded varied at key cities and central places. Based on preliminary findings, the more autocratically ruled, unequal polities were less sustainable.
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.
This article explores the movie Τέλος εποχής (End of an Era) by Antonis Kokkinos (1994), a key film in the regeneration of Greek cinema in the mid-late 1990s. The film constitutes a form of public history construing and problematizing relations between the images and the historical past, exploring the dictatorship (1967–74) through the consumer-oriented values of the 1990s. By scrutinizing historical (dis)continuities (similarities, differences, and transformations in consumer politics and sexuality in particular) between the dictatorship and the 1990s, the article argues that, focusing on 1960s youth, End of an Era underplayed the dictatorship's authoritarianism and (re)defined politics through the availability (or not) of consumer choices, expressing the relaxed ideological climate of the 1990s.
In this chapter we explore possible volatility in audience orientations in more depth by asking: How and why do audience members’ consumption orientations shift throughout the communication process? Drawing on interview data with management practitioners who have attended management guru lectures, we stress the need for a more dynamic understanding of audience responses that can account for the individual-level variability in consumption orientations. First, by showing how individual audience members’ orientations are not necessarily limited to a single category and cannot be considered a permanent state, our findings seek to move beyond conceptions of managers’ attitudes towards management gurus and their ideas as relatively static. In particular, we identify three forms of shifts (involvement-induced, utility-induced and alternating) in managerial audience members’ consumption orientation amongst individual audience members that may occur during the communication process. Second, we explain how these shifts are related to the individual audience members’ expectations and broader management knowledge consumption pattern.
In this chapter we ask: How and why do audience members vary in the way they are attracted to a guru and the management ideas they are promoting? Using analyses of interviews with management practitioners who have attended guru lectures, the chapter indicates how a broader and more fine-grained understanding of consumption activity is essential in providing a more advanced view of audience differentiation and helps to better understand the success and impact of management ideas among a managerial audience. First, our analysis reveals four different key managerial audience members’ consumption orientations – the gratifications that individual member seek – (devoted, engaged, non-committal and critical) towards gurus and the management ideas they are promoting. Second, the findings show how audience members’ orientations are constructed in relation to their perceptions of different key audience activities (selectivity, involvement and utility) at different stages of the consumption process. Third, the chapter explains how, and to what extent, the use of these orientations relates to the design of the guru lecture and the audience members’ background characteristics.
This article examines Canada’s first internet gambling website blocking scheme, which was enacted in Quebec as part of the implementation of the province’s 2015 budget. Using qualitative research methods, the article illustrates the complexities of regulating online gambling. Influenced by critical sociological and anthropological studies of gambling, and taking a socio-legal, governmentality perspective, it shows how socio-legal studies can illuminate research on the regulation of gambling, and how the study of online gambling can, as a sentinel site for the regulation of online consumption, contribute to the development of socio-legal studies. Our analysis shows that the governmentality of online gambling is framed so as to exclude 1) a range of risks (e.g., related to consumer profiling and the capacity to stimulate “addictive consumption”), 2) the heterogeneity of everyday experience that connects online gambling with online addictive consumption more generally, and 3) a range of possibilities for governing online gambling otherwise.
Modern womanhood was also a cultural project with implications for gender roles and masculinity. This chapter turns to dress as a visual code in the increasingly heterosocial public sphere. The women’s press promoted a model of stylistic progress from head-coverings and loose colorful dresses to makeup and heels, images reiterated in advertisements. Yet fashion catalyzed fears about women’s independence and sexualization as seen in the miniskirt. An iconic 1960s item, the mini provoked controversy around the globe from Greece to France to Tanzania. Attention to the hyper-politicization of women’s dress in the Middle East often focuses on the veil, yet beyond veils or unveiling, scrutiny over women’s dress perpetuated the political and cultural relevance of women’s appearance. The 1960s were also a quintessential decade of student protests, and the politicization of clothing included concerns about men’s appearance as an aspect of men’s behavior. While youthful fashions violated expectations of filial obedience to presidential authority, there was little consensus about the meanings of men’s dress. Adopting an apolitical guise, discussions about fashion in Tunisia’s women’s magazines situated textiles within a future of national industrialization with innovative understandings of style, identity, and authenticity.
This article examines the phenomenon of so-called North African-style pottery made in early third-century York. The pottery, which was produced in significant quantities in late Ebor ware, is strikingly different from vessels in circulation in Roman Britain and the north-west provinces – so much so that the late Vivien Swan argued that it was ‘made by Africans for the use of Africans’. The present study reassesses the evidence of ceramic genealogical influences, production waste, fabric supply, consumption patterns and contextual finds associations. The results shed new light on the manufacture and use of late Ebor ware by York's military community, qualifying claims made about the repertoire's links with novel culinary practices, cultural diversity and the unique historical circumstances of Severan York.