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The Aircraft Carrier Club

The Aircraft Carrier Club

(p.55) Chapter Three The Aircraft Carrier Club
The Price of Prestige
Lilach Gilady
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the dynamics of international conspicuous consumption by focusing on an international “luxury commodity”: the aircraft carrier. It begins with a background on the Swedish warship Vasa, which sank on the day of its maiden voyage and offers a cautionary tale highlighting the potential tension between size, conspicuousness, extravagance, and the strategic utility of weaponry. The chapter then considers the relationship between conspicuousness and naval power and goes on to disentangle the intrinsic strategic value of a vessel from its symbolic value as a venue for conspicuous consumption by focusing on deterrence. It also describes methods for differentiating between primary-utility explanations of procurement and those based on conspicuous consumption. Finally, it analyzes the state of the world's carrier fleet, with emphasis on the tension between aircraft carriers' questionable strategic utility and their well-established role as a vessels of prestige.

Keywords:   conspicuous consumption, luxury, naval power, deterrence, procurement, aircraft carriers, strategic utility, prestige

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