The theory of leisure class by Veblen (1899) is typically quoted in consumer behaviour studies. The author is in the opinion that although the theory was written in the 19th century, the essence of it is still relevant in today’s world.
Here is the author’s take on the theory:
According to Yeoman & McMahon-Beattie (2014), it was Veblen who coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ in his Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Veblen’s argument is based upon the belief that as wealth spreads, what drives consumers’ behaviour is increasingly neither subsistence nor comfort, but the ‘attainment of esteem and envy of fellow men’. Further to this, Low (2010) stated that Veblen’s seminal model of conspicuous consumption theorises that individuals emulate the consumption patterns of those individuals at a higher point in the social hierarchy. The accumulation of wealth is not really what confers status; rather, what confers status is the evidence of wealth, which requires its wasteful exhibition-behaviour which Veblen describes as ‘conspicuous consumption’ (Han et al. 2010 p.18). Yang & Mattila (2013) believed that Veblen’s theory of the leisure class can be considered as the foundation of status consumption research, as it provides insight on how people use wealth and material possessions to enhance their social status. Consequently, Shukla (2012) noted that conspicuous consumption is more apparent among consumers from emerging markets due to a higher interdependent self and this subsequently affects the consumption trend.
HAN, Y.J., NUNES, J.C. & DRÈZE, X. 2010. Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence. Journal of Marketing [online]. 74 (4), pp. 15-30. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkg.74.4.015
LOW, T., 2010. Sustainable Luxury: A Case of Strange Bedfellows? Institute for Tourism Research [online]. pp. 1-15. Available from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.665.4371&rep=rep1&type=pdf
SHUKLA, P. 2012. The influence of value perceptions on luxury purchase intentions in developed and emerging markets. International Marketing Review [online]. 29 (6), pp. 574-596. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1108/02651331211277955
YANG, W. & MATTILA, A.S. 2013. The Impact of Status Seeking on Consumers’ Word of Mouth and Product Preference—a Comparison Between Luxury Hospitality Services and Luxury Goods. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research [online]. 41 (1), pp. 3-22. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/1096348013515920
YEOMAN, I. & MCMAHON-BEATTIE, U. 2014. Exclusivity: The future of luxury. Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management [online]. 13 (1), pp. 12-22. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1057/rpm.2013.29