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 6: The sociology of distinction, superiority and deprivation

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


So far, the inquiry has concentrated on the analysis of economic and behavioural forces. It is now time to turn to the study of the sociological processes that are relevant because the rise of status markets that we witness today applies in the social context of late market economy. Factors such as the media, information technology and the mobile phone exercise an immense influence and tend to amplify the subjective psychological forces that result in the rise of status markets. These markets are relevant to different social groups, who assume differing social roles. The social dimension implies that the study of status markets must be conducted from a sociological perspective. There are certain significant issues that need to be analysed through the application of the sociological methodology. Such questions refer to the environment of contemporary social groups, which influences tastes or preferences; or, how factors such as the media or advertisement shape the social identities of individuals, who act within or across social groups. Another sociological issue refers to phenomena such as sensationalism, virtual communication and an endless appetite for novelty. An important question to ask is how the social identity of different individuals is cultivated and in what manner this identity influences positional concerns for distinction and, in certain cases, for social discrimination. Another sociological issue is the relation of social identities with symbols or myths provided by contemporary media and advertisement.

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