Second Cousin Jack wrote a comment on the blog entry about belongings that makes a connection between buying all this stuff and competition. What’s the connection? Well Thorstein Veblen way back at the turn of the 20th century wrote a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class. That’s where he developed his conspicuous consumption thesis; people pile up needlessly expensive stuff to show their place on the social ladder. That’s about the time too that Andrew Carnegie wrote his books extolling the virtues of capitalism and the joys of wealth. Andrew, having all the wealth he had, was one happy dude.
At a break in my class the other day, a student asked if he could bum a smoke. I said sure, ok, but that I in no way advocate smoking since it will kill you. So at the break I go out to this area outside the building to sneak a quick two puffs. And there’s my student smoking away. It’s a good place to smoke because it’s on the second floor on a walkway between two buildings that hardly anybody ever uses. It’s out in the open and when there’s a little breeze, as there usually is, the smoke gets blown away quickly.
He suddenly starts talking about the stuff we were talking about in class, and says that all this buying of stuff is like a sickness. The students, himself included, are very competitive he says; they all envy each other and are all the time checking each other out to see what kinds of stuff they are wearing. Really, he said, we don’t like each other because we don’t trust each other, because everybody is judging everybody else by their stuff, and we have been taught it’ a dog eat dog world and every man for himself. There’s an awful lot of lonely students out there he says.
So it would appear for him that there is some sort of link too between competition for the money it takes to conspicuously consume. But I am out of it on this one. When I think of conspicuous consumption I think of a Cadillac or maybe a mink coat, or something like that. If students conspicously consume, I don’t see it because I have no idea what kind of jeans a student might be wearing or how much those jeans might have cost. We are way past the time, when Jordache jeans had a big Jordache written across the butt. That was early 80’s stuff.
Now the number and type of jeans is just plain astonishing. At jeans.com I found listed the following brands: Joe’s jeans, Goldsign, Citizens of Humanity, Denim of Virtue, Stitch’s Jeans, Red Engine, Rock Revival, Iron Army, Vintage Rebel, and Marlow Jeans, and really that ain’t the half of it.
These jeans don’t have big logos written across the butt; sometimes they are marked by only a tiny metal insignia. This doesn’t seem like conspicuous consumption to me, but who knows maybe all my students can recognize all these different types of jeans, see what statement the student is making by wearing them (I am a rebel, for example) and also know that jeans like this can cost upwards of 200 bucks a pair.
The view from where I go to snag two puffs between classes.