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Technology & Innovation

The New Status-Conscious Consumer

Many people want to make it clear that they are deeply, deeply concerned about the world’s problems, so a growing number of goods are designed to convey this message.

Consumption is partly about pleasure: chocolate tastes good, silk feels soft and so on. But it is also about showing off, and what is deemed bragworthy has changed dramatically over time. In the 1950s it was about “keeping up with the Joneses”—amassing as much new stuff as your neighbours. Today everyone in the rich world has a washing machine, so people increasingly seek to advertise their hipness or virtue instead. Rather than buying their clothes from predictable European fashion houses, they trawl the world for exotic designs from Brazilian favelas or South African townships.


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