The Political Economy of Status

The Political Economy of Status

Superstars, Markets and Culture Change

Theodore Koutsobinas

In this timely book Theodore Koutsobinas explores the system of status markets and their social effects including inequality. He explains how media fascination with superstars and luxury consumption goods amplify positional concerns for all, distort the aspirations of the middle class and cause relative deprivation. Building on themes first identified by Veblen and Galbraith, Koutsobinas analyses extensively the behavioural evidence from modern interdisciplinary research and contributes constructively to a new genre of economic analysis. The Political Economy of Status compels us to consider seriously redistributive culture change policies targeted to assist the underprivileged. This book will be a valuable and lively reading resource for academics in various fields including economic theory, political economy, sociology, social psychology and cultural studies.

Chapter 3: The fundamental forces: technology, tastes and values

Theodore Koutsobinas

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, cultural economics, economic psychology, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Positional activities do not take place in a static economic, social and cultural environment. By contrast, there are rapid and fundamental changes in various frontiers. Some of them such as the progress in information technology have massively influenced our lives. Situating the analysis of status markets in the context of important changes, which take place in the economic, the social and cultural environment becomes useful for two reasons. First, it allows the study of these markets on a firmer footing. The second reason is that it facilitates the analysis because it highlights important trends, which are linked with changes in everyday life. The influence of fundamental forces such as technology, preferences and wealth are usually considered as a fixed datum in traditional economic analysis but are allowed to vary within a socio-economic perspective. Thus the impact of advanced technological possibilities, inflated consumer choices and new wealth must be also taken into account. Another issue is the role of modern finance in supporting various categories of expenditures, which relate to consumption and investment preferences. These choices reflect to a smaller or a larger extent different sets of values or cultural beliefs. An essential question is how global trends in technological advancement, preference formation, wealth creation and financialization alter the economic, social or cultural structures, in which individuals live and act today. For example, a fundamental development during the last decades is the emergence of a post-modern identity that is self-centred and egocentric.

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