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Conspicuous Consumption

Reviewed by Bhavana | Updated on Sep 30, 2020

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What Does Conspicuous Consumption Mean?

Conspicuous consumption is purchasing goods or services for the specific purpose of showing one's riches. Conspicuous consumption is a means of demonstrating one's social status, especially when the publicly displayed goods and services are too costly for other members of a person's class.

This form of consumption is typically associated with the wealthy but can be extended to any economic class as well. Consumerism is a term arising from conspicuous consumption.

How Is It Expressed?

It can be exemplified by buying goods which are designed almost exclusively with the intention of serving as symbols of wealth. While there are many types of high-end smartphones available in the market from major manufacturers, speciality smartphones were also produced strictly as luxury items that come with a gold case or diamond-studded body.

It could be contended that making such a purchase comes with some guarantee that the consumer will be in possession of the best available device, however many economic models of the same product are also in the market. Procuring these items is primarily intended to drive the debate around its acquisition and the fact that the owner could afford such an expensive purchase.

An Example

Effectively, all smartphones offer the same core communications features with installed software and apps that provide a great deal of functionality. Designer smartphones are, however, available from a few luxury brands. The hardware inside the phones will almost always be the best available, but what also separates these smartphones are the outer casings that can be made of leather, titanium or even granite.

Something similar could be said even about the limited edition supercars, which are designed for speed and visual appeal but have little practical application. Usually, supercar top speeds can't be achieved safely, or legally, on most highways. Ownership of these vehicles can be an act of conspicuous consumption because it is uncommon to experience the full capabilities of supercars–even by the owner.

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