Remodel 10: The Diderot Effect

While the remodel is nearly complete, the effects of it are not.

In my readings on the consumer society, I came across more than once reference to the "Diderot effect."

Apparently Diderot acquired a fancy new housecoat (given to him I believe) and abruptly all that had previously surrounded him seem shoddy.

The new housecoat ruined him.

He writes in "Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A warning to those who have more taste than fortune":

"In its shelter (the old housecoat) I feared neither the clumsiness of a valet, nor my own, neither the explosion of fire nor the spilling of water. I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one."

While I don’t feel a slave to my new surroundings, I know what he means. One upgrade requires another. The new stove for example required new cookware, not simply because the old cookware looked lousy on the new cookware but also because according to the instructions that came with the new stove our old cookware (wonderful and simple cast iron) would ruin the white ceramic top of the new stove. Moreover, upgrade means additional upkeep. The new stovetop is so damn white, I feel compelled to wipe it clean after I use it. The same with the cookware, so gleaming and new, I must make sure to get it back to its original shine.

So too we are in the market for a runner to cover the carpet on the stairs. Previously, it looked OK, but now that we have repainted everything and put new white carpet upstairs, it’s slightly worn condition, once tolerable, is now intolerable.

But there’s more to the effects of the remodel than just the "Diderot effect." In fact Diderot suggests more: the relation of good taste to fortune (though this gets a bit glossed over in the consumer interpretation of Diderot’s essay).

We need to find night stands for this. We have two of them:


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