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Explaining Conspicuous Consumption in International Relations

Explaining Conspicuous Consumption in International Relations

Chapter:
(p.1) Chapter One Explaining Conspicuous Consumption in International Relations
Source:
The Price of Prestige
Author(s):
Lilach Gilady
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226433349.003.0001

This book examines the role of prestige in international relations through an analysis of conspicuous consumption. Drawing on the economic literature on Veblen effects, it argues that states pursue prestige by engaging in conspicuous consumption and that this quest for prestige is similar to the quest for power as a motivating force in international affairs. According to Veblenian theory, actors use consumption as a signal to indicate their social station and are willing to pay more in the hope that the additional expense may buy them prestige. The book also explores the logic of status symbols in international relations and demonstrates the dynamics of conspicuous consumption using three international “luxury commodities”: aircraft carriers, prosocial policies, and Big Science projects. This chapter elaborates each of these themes.

Keywords:   prestige, international relations, conspicuous consumption, power, Veblenian theory, status symbols, luxury, aircraft carriers, prosocial policies, Big Science

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