Compensatory consumption

Remember when irony died following 9/11?

Whether you call it compensatory consumption, Veblen goods or just maintaining pace with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, I wonder if Pierre Luigi Sacco's insights will apply after the contraction.

The hallmark of a post-industrial economy is that basically people think in terms of identity when they make their choices. What they actually do is think in terms of, 'if I buy this, how will other people perceive me?' or 'if I buy this, what kind of person I am for buying this?' Why this is becoming so relevant? Well, before answering to that, let's just look at how people in the marketing departments actually address you when they try to sell you those goods. Well, they address you exactly in this respect.

The product itself is somewhat disappearing from the centre stage. What's just coming up is the kind of person who buys this kind of goods or the symbolic representation of the good, rather than the good itself, to the point that actually, they don't even make promises about what exactly that product delivers. What they promise is how you'll feel about the good, which is totally different.

The economics of identity is a tricky field because it's entirely new. We don't know anything about it. Why should these problems be threatening? Well, consider this, if scarcity is the hallmark of the economics of survival, what does it mean thinking in terms of scarcity in the economics of identity? Basically, what becomes scarce in this context is not the availability of goods, there are plenty of them, is a sort of invasion, we simply can't just protect ourselves by this attack of goods I mean popping up everywhere.

But, what becomes scarce is 'who can you pretend to be'? 


February 26, 2009 at 11:37 AM Patrick Jordan said...

Great post. Write more stuff like this :)