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May 19, 2009


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While I find the anti-consumerist slant seductive, I disagree with the way he presents things.

I don't for example think humans in general care about showing how individual we are. I think there is a desire to conform as well. I'm thinking of fashion in pre-consumerist days. The victorians saw each other in stove pipes hats and sober suits and decided that they wanted to signal the sobriety and industry (and associated wealth) that those clothes signalled.

I'd say that what advertising does is manufacture new ways of signaling that are to the benefit of the corporations.

I don't think we ignore corporate lead signaling as much as he suggests. People still go wow about expensive cars and gadgets (and expensive clothing for other people).

Commentary on the book's neglect of group membership:

"While I find the anti-consumerist slant seductive, I disagree with the way he presents things."

Just for the record, then, I should mention:

While I find the anti-consumerist slant repulsive, I agree with much of what he says.

Cliffhanger endings?! I thought this was a serious idea-filled blog, not an episodic thriller!

Robins trying to compete with all the season finales.

Interesting, but all over the place.

On (4), the distinction between legal and social norms is continuous and not discrete. Legal institutions are constitutive of social norms and vice versa.

One thing the book (or at least your selections from it) miss is that often high end goods are actually better; not just better because they send signals, but better because of their functions.

When I fly on my own dime, I buy online from cheapoair.com, but when I fly for work I fly first class. I will tell you from experience that first class is actually better. The seats are more spacious, have better cushioning, and are more ergonomic. You are just much less stiff after the flight. You get to show up to the airport later since first class has its own security line that is much shorter, and you get off the plane first since you are in front. We only live so long, spending one less hour in an airport is pretty nice.

At some level of wealth it would without a doubt be worthwhile to fly first class even if you had to wear a mask on the plane and were legally barred from ever mentioning it. There is enough of an intrinsic quality gap that it would be worth it with no signaling value. Sure, some more expensive items are lower in quality than the cheep items they replace, but overgeneralizing to fit a pet belief is an easy trap to fall into. You can't just assume that all consumption of luxury goods is signaling.

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