Conspicuous Сonsumption of Buyers in a Mall

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In 1912, sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to describe a fundamental change in people’s orientations. By this term, Veblen meant that our previous emphasis on hard work and saving was being replaced by an eagerness to show off wealth by the “elaborate consumption of goods.”   In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1967-1899), Veblen described early wealthy U.S. industrialists as engaging in conspicuous consumption – the continuous display of one’s wealth and status through purchases such as expensive houses, clothing, motor vehicles, and other consumer goods.

As we have learned, the 60s was a decade of financial stability, spawning an age of consumerism as Americans began to accumulate material goods and began to internalize the concept of the “American Dream.” At that time, conspicuous consumption was not limited to the wealthy, but available to just about everyone. We have discussed the ideology of capitalism and how this has set the stage for economic power to be in the hands of a few at the expense of many. In light of our current economic situation, for this project we will be looking for evidence of this “conspicuous consumption” and the implications of this for us as individuals and as a society.

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For this project, you are going shopping!    No…not to spend money, but to observe how others are spending their money. You are to go to a local department store such as Target or Wal-Mart and observe what people are buying based upon gender, race/ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. What do women buy?    What do men buy?   What do seniors buy?   What do teenagers buy?   And so forth.

Prior to going into the field, you should conduct some preliminary research on recent literature on consumerism in the United States. Look for articles based upon recent studies (no more than 5 years old) of people’s spending habits.

You are to spend 1–2 hours observing people, taking notes. Note what they are buying based on the various demographics above. Note how they are paying for their purchases. Are they paying with cash or credit cards?   Note the types of products they are buying. Do they pass over the “generic” and instead purchase the name brands?   Are they buying more sale items than regular priced items?   Are they purchasing more “necessities” as opposed to “luxuries?”   (Yes, a bag of chocolate would be considered a “luxury”!)

After you have completed your observations, you are to write a 2–3 page paper analyzing what you have observed.

  1. What conclusions can you draw from the spending habits of people based upon their demographics?
  2.  What evidence do you see that we are living in a consumer- oriented, materialistic culture?   Do we buy impulsively or is there more deliberation over what we buy?
  3.   Do you see evidence that we are truly living in “hard times” based upon how much we are spending, what we are buying, how we are paying for it, and such?
  4.  Referencing your outside sources, do you feel that current research on consumer habits is valid?   Why or why not?
  5.  With the spread of capitalism throughout the world, what evidence do you see that consumerism and materialism are also spreading? Give at least one example.

Your project should be 2–3 pages in length

  •   Double spaced
  •  #12 font –Times New Roman
  • 1” margins on all sides
  •  Separate cover page and reference page
  • A minimum of two reliable, scholarly sources


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Conspicuous Сonsumption of Buyers in a Mall. (2016, Aug 26). Retrieved from

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