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 5: The anthropology of popular culture and identity formation

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


Although the social psychology analysis of status markets provides several important insights, we can still enhance our understanding by examining their relation to aspects of our everyday life. This constitutes essentially an anthropological inquiry of positional concerns. More precisely, the objective of this study is to uncover the human aspects of everyday routines, which interface with status markets. The post-modern life today is in many ways radically different to what the industrial experience was in the past. People today experience their lives amidst greater expectations and enjoy more entertainment, free expression and aesthetic fascination through media and popular culture. A key anthropological question that must be addressed is how our individual feelings that appear in the context of post-modern life interface with the development of status markets. Another economic anthropology issue is how particular forms of social phenomena, which relate to consumer society, popular culture and media reality, facilitate the exposure to superstars and celebrities and trigger relative social competition. These manifestations may include brand projection, excessive sexual promiscuity, aesthetization and fashion novelty. In our post-modern world, symbols and myths play an active role in the process of shaping preferences and in individual decision-making. From an anthropological viewpoint, it is important to explore how myths and symbols, which surface in status markets, link with human aspects of everyday life, such as experiences, hopes and emotions.

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