Who did not read what Thorstein Veblen wrote in 1899 on the emerging leisure class of America, in which he coined the term “conspicuous consumption” and examined how the wealthy used purchasing decisions to demonstrate their class? No one. Well, 120 years later there is a new book on the new “leisure” class, by sociologist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, called Aspirational Class. “Aspirationals” are the group that the writer sees as the new elite. The book has been recently published and was described in a review published by Quartz:
“They are highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than by income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breastfeed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption—like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates.”
According to Currid-Halkett, the old-style leisure class no longer exists, and inconspicuous consumption has become the conspicuous consumption of our times. The writer also notes that most of the wealthy class today have to work for their riches and no longer want to show their wealth as ostentatiously as Veblen argued when he wrote that wearing high-heel shoes or a top hat for the rich was to demonstrate that you could not possibly do any manual labor. Things are much more different today, and almost all of the wealth goes to education and other services that, well, read it for yourselves. I am ordering the book.