The Political Economy of Status
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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.
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Chapter 7: Contentment, politics and the philosophy of superiority

Theodore Koutsobinas


The operation of status markets involves directly or indirectly an individual attitude towards certain forms of social discrimination. This raises the issue of possible political implications that are relevant for the formulation of appropriate public policies. For example, if status markets generate social costs and the contented resist to acknowledge them and do nothing about these problems, then appropriate policy remedies should be imposed in a decisive manner. One way to discuss political repercussions is to apply principles that are drawn from the literature of political economy with respect to the behaviour of the upper and middle classes. A question to address is whether in the presence of a widening gap in income distribution, there are visible political interventions by the privileged to contain the complaints of the less comfortable. More specifically, it is useful to examine whether status markets enhance the perceived differences between the comfortable and the less privileged and whether they interfere in any form with the political debate between advocates of those groups. In terms of a philosophical discussion, a point of departure is the inquiry about philosophical principles that may facilitate our understanding of the rise of status markets and of possible solutions. In particular, it is important to reflect on what kind of solutions will be more appropriate and how they relate to philosophical dialectics.

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