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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vebeln Explains the Popularity of Rough-Hewed Wood

Rough-hewed, rustic pieces of furniture, log houses, and so forth have been increasingly popular of late. Let us turn to Thorstein Veblen for an explanation.

Veblen's theory of conspicuous consumption says that,for some goods, part of the utility gained from the good is that gained by showing off the fact that you can consume goods that are that costly. (Nothing in his theory contradicts the findings of the marginal utility school; it only posits a special source of utility sometimes in operation.) Now, in the old days, to enjoy conspicuous consumption in your furniture meant having exquisitely detailed pieces in your home or office, hand-made by highly skilled artisans. Peasants had rough-hewed furniture that they made themselves, or that was built for them by a poor craftsmen.

But today, a factory can turn out finely detailed pieces which only a trained eye can distinguish from a handmade piece. Therefore, if you want to show off how much you can afford to pay for your furniture, it helps if it is obviously hand-made, in other words, you are mysteriously find yourself "into" rustic-looking pieces, rather than wanting a reproduction Queen Anne.

So there you have it.

1 comment:

  1. I really didn't like that book at all when I read it, but ever since I find myself doing this exact thing. Everywhere I look, I see these kinds of effects, but I don't usually see it so much in goods as you have described. Usually it is in terms of behavior or decisions and especially dealings with other people.

    Some bloggers indirectly write about these kinds of status effects in dating, and I think that they have pretty well nailed it (no pun intended). Status-mongering does seem to be the driving motive of a great fraction of human behavior, almost the principle driving force of 'worldly' dynamics. And as bad as you or I may see it, my wife says it is manifold worse in China, and I have heard from others that it is also very bad in India, though in that case I have no direct knowledge to go by. She says it is withering there, and it makes life quite miserable and nearly impossible to deviate from the confines of acceptable opinions and behavior.

    I wonder if maybe Jesus's messages about the virtue of humility were perhaps his most directly anti-Satanic teachings.

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