conspicuous consumption

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Coined by Thorstein Veblen in 1899.


conspicuous consumption (uncountable)

  1. A public display of acquisition of possessions with the intention of gaining social prestige; excessive consumerism in order to flaunt one's purchasing power.
    • 1907, Alvin S. Johnson, "Influences Affecting the Development of Thrift," Political Science Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 2 (June), page 238:
      "Conspicuous consumption" is a proof of economic success.
    • 1952, Paul Mackendrick, "Education for the Art of Living," The Journal of Higher Education, vol. 23, no. 8 (Nov.), page 423:
      Professional humanists . . . resent Veblen's saying that knowing an ancient language is conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste, like growing your fingernails long and painting them, or keeping a Pekingese.
    • 2004, Ed Hopkins and Tatiana Kornienko, "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," The American Economic Review, vol. 94, no. 4 (Sep.), page 1086:
      As a society becomes richer, those whose incomes do not grow spend more on conspicuous consumption in an attempt to keep up.


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