Tag Archives: Veblen

Blog #4 How to make it in America–“Get rich or die trying”

Throughout society hustling may be portrayed as something devious. We tie the word to negative connotations. In the music industry rappers talk about selling drugs and hustling on the streets to make money. I always viewed hustling as something that was done as a means to make quick money in which ever way you can obtain easy access to. Think about the people who sell dvds, perfumes, and handbags on the street corners or even the usual group of people who stand in front of the bodegas. Hustlers take on many different forms not just the form of flashy cars and entourages however although their trades may vary they all share common characteristics between them. They have the ability to easily convince people into buying their products with charm or even deceit.

Hustling is something sporadic and unconventional, it is characterized by a broad range of activities.  It is not a typical 9am-5pm job which may be considered honorable/respectable. However hustlers take on the task of finding a way to make quick money which shows immediate results. They don’t have to wait for a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck. Aside from negative connotations that come to mind when hearing the word, I found that hustlers are dynamic and innovative. Hustling as described by Veblen is a strategy which adds structure to our society.

We find that unemployment rates are high across the United States. More and more people are finding themselves doing odd jobs off the books because unemployment can only go so far for so long. While finding it difficult to land sustainable jobs people look for ways to make a quick buck. Whether through catalogs, from home, out of a car or even by foot people hustle. In order to make it in America we must hustle. As a nation of workaholics we find it difficult to stand still when receiving little to no income through unemployment or through mediocre jobs that neither satisfy us nor pay all of our bills. We fear being labeled as lazy or incapable. We constantly feel the need to multi-task. Keeping busy and having full schedules is what we do best. If we sit at home and do nothing we become restless. We must go out in search of something to do and become pro-active.

hustlingThe article “No Hustle, No Success” talks about mastering the art of hustling. It states that “the act of hustling means to act in an aggressive manner to achieve a self mandated goal no matter how difficult it may be”. In this article Yura Bryant talks about the hustler mentality as being essential to surviving amongst the declining infrastructures in today’s society. In fact, I believe this to be very true. Opportunities come to those who are willing to work hard and hustle even through  unconventional means. Yura Bryant discusses the hustler mindset as the fuel to the “American Dream”. He ends the article by stating “I am telling you without a doubt that you have to hustle hard to make it in these new times. We are currently in a rebuilding period throughout the entire world and only those with a keen sense of how to strategically operate a legitimate hustle or hustles will find themselves in a comfortable position moving forward”. I definitely agree as this gives light to the way that Vebelen presented hustling. It is truly an art and the hustler must display distinctive qualities. The next time I am doing my nails and someone comes in to sell socks or dvds I would look at them in a different perspective as this lecture has helped me to develop a distinct respect for them.

Attached below is a link to the article that I discussed previously. I definitely recommend it.



Squeezing Into A Corset: Thoughts On Veblen & Gilman

Blog 4:


For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of this Sociological Theory class is the connections and comparisons that we can draw between theorists. I think that there’s a clear reason that we’ve juxtaposed the theories of Veblen and Gilman, as both deal with many of the same societal phenomena and issues. Gender inequality is ubiquitous, and part of the reason for why this is the case is because of how institutionalized it is. Gilman’s emphasis on the way different genders are socialized and the attitudes that pervade all aspects and facets of society because of this is a crucial point. She compares a woman to a horse, in that they both facilitate added production for the males of society, and in that way factor into economics. However, they’re nonetheless dependent on men to subsist and survive. Veblen similarly notes on the inequality of women, when he discusses the role that some women play as “trophy wives,” and how their standing is more of a symbol and object for the conspicuous consumption of men, than that of equal society member.

These ideas and their manifestations can easily be seen in society today, and I’d like to relate them to two specific examples (which in turn, relate to each other). The first example that I’d like to briefly discuss is Lily Myers’ slam poetry reading that we watched in class. Myers titled her piece “Shrinking Women,” and emphasizes the double standard of expectations that exist for men and women. She and her mother, like most women in our society, are constantly told (although oftentimes not told literally) that they’re position in society is one of control, limit, and restriction. Women must monitor all manner of consumption and expression, whether it be eating another slice of pizza, or speaking in class. How do they know that this is expected of them? Because societal institutions around them i.e. the media, school, family, etc. socialize them in this way. These expectations are in diametrical opposition to what has been deemed “the norm” for men, what Myers’ brother Jonas has been socialized to conform to. While calls to fight the status quo are valid, this is easier said than done. Women monitor and restrict, “shrinking themselves” both literally and figuratively in a fashion that is perfectly analogous to Gilman’s “Corset Metaphor,” the second example that I’d like to discuss.

The similarities between a corset and the shape/space altering impact of society’s gender attitudes are clear, and I believe the most salient aspect of this comparison is the after effect that both have. They leave their impressions and marks on the bodies (and in the latter case also the minds) of women, so that they are forever changed, and to a degree that the women might not even notice how abusive the processes were. In Lily Myers’ case, she is thankfully aware of the metaphorical corset that is attempting to alter and strangle her. To shrink her appetite, her intellect, and her chances at equality.

It is interesting to note that the corset was implemented as a tool to enhance the aesthetic look of peoples’ bodies, although most often it was worn by women. It was an object of consumption, favored by men, to increase the value of “their women” in terms of conforming to patriarchal fueled notions of ideal feminine beauty. It was an item used to improve women’s perceived “value” as “trophy wives,” to be conspicuously consumed as symbols of male prowess and success. In that respect it is the perfect object to connect the theories of Veblen and Gilman, and to highlight the gender inequality that has existed for so long.

Embedded is an article about Myers’ poetry reading, with an interesting slideshow about women and body image.

Conspicuous Consumption


Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption made me think of why many people are in debt. With money that they do not have, they tend to splurge on brand names and feel some kind of satisfaction after their purchase. Without thinking that they have gone broke, all society cares about is “fitting in” and how they are looked at. If a wealthy friend of yours posts a picture of themselves wearing Christian Louboutin heels (which are the most uncomfortable shoes) people will praise them and their friends who see the picture might even end up buying the same $600 shoes, although they cannot afford it. People will also go out of their way to buy fake Louboutins or any heels with red bottoms. It’s all about fitting in and it doesn’t come cheap. Even new “hipster” looks do not come cheap–in order to have that “bum” look consisting of loose shirts, ripped jeans, and cozy oversized sweaters there is a price to pay for that outfit, about $80. In my opinion, I think most of us are guilty of conspicuous consumption whether you like it or not. That’s just how society has raised us. 



Blog #3: Con$picuou$ Con$umption

imageIn today’s society Veblen’s idea of conspicuous consumption is evident everywhere. In my opinion this is one of the biggest ideas or factors that define the American class system and make the lower class feel like the lower class. Veblen’s idea of conspicuous consumption states that people use money and other resources in which they have to display their higher social status than others. What’s ironic is that this often happens with people within the same class in which they compete to make themselves seem of a higher social class than their piers. Often times people do this buy purchasing high-end name brands to wear as clothing, jewelry, watches, and even can include such extensive items such as cars and houses. Why settle for a BMW if you can have a Mercedes? And why settle for a Mercedes if you can have a Tesla?

Veblen’s idea revolves around the concept of what he refers to as Veblen’s goods in which refers to commodities in which people’s demand for these products increase and simultaneously the price for these products increases as well. This violates the typical law of demand, in which would state that the price of these products would decrease. However since we are talking about high-end items, these companies want to make sure their products are not available to just about anyone, and if knowing this they can raise their prices to continue to only present itself as a high-end product or a way to tell some ones social class.

            Veblen presents interesting ideas and concepts about conspicuous consumption. It’s amazing that so many Americans are so self-absorbed within themselves that they are willing to purchase anything regardless of the price to make them to look of a higher social status or class. It shouldn’t matter about the brand of your clothes or car, however it should matter that you are able to pay your bills on time, have a family that loves you, and staying in good health. Your family isn’t going to love you because you own a Michael Kors watch, however they’re going to love you for you and that’s how it should be.

Blog 5: Veblen

After last class we’ve come to see who Veblen is and what he talks about. Thorstein Veblen was an American economist during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. This was a time where America was seeing the effects of the industrial revolution and the results of deregulated industry. These loose regulations allowed for the emergence of the super rich class that owned large companies. He talked about the leisure class and conspicuous consumption. These rich people were known for their spending and lavish lifestyles. Thorstein criticized this spending and called it wasteful and believed that it didn’t help the economy. To me the leisure class is a more in detail concept of status. Status now refers back to Weber. Veblen makes it seem that those of higher power try to intimidate the lower class individuals to do all the “real” work thats is actually keeping society together while they do the least amount of work but then they gain the highest profit? Doesn’t make sense!  

Blog #3: The Leisure Class and Conspicuous Consumption

Thorstein Veblen, an early student of Marx’s theories developed his twin notions of “conspicuous consumptions” and “conspicuous leisure.” He focused his attention on the leisure class (the creators of goods) who benefited the most from the economic system. Veblen calls attention on the waste of both money and time that an individual  engage in as a means to improve their self-esteem and evaluating their status in society. In other words, people went through the materialistic route of establishing their status in society.

Veblen does have a point which still reaches out to today’s world. If everyone thinks about it, we live in a world where we compare each other on the level of material ownership. This idea is very self-centered and egotistical way of analyzing the “individual” in western societies. During class discussions a few weeks back, a student ( education major) mentioned that she witnessed one child being ostracized from the rest of his/her peers because they didn’t wear a particular shoe. Now, if we witness the progression of these children, with the affluence of this particular behavior, we see that life becomes a competition game. No longer do people choose what to do with their money intelligently, but rather use their personal savings or earnings to gain mere acceptance among peers over the smallest things i.e. cell phones, cars, clothing lines. Why people even spend tons of money on cars, which depreciates in its value the moment it comes out of the showroom (and if you think about it)

A great example of “conspicuous consumption”: My sister ever since she had a job in her early teens went out and sought after high end retail (Gucci, Armani, Tiffany etc).  And I would like to establish that I consider my family to be in the lower-middle class. She never really explained in full why she buys these items and then two months later never wear the same dress or handbag again. She always wanted to flaunt in front of her friends her purchases. These items held no real purpose, nothing but to show her wealth.
I remember my at the age of 20, she (back in maybe 2008) wanting to go to a party in the summer and my father offered her a ride in our car. Now this car wasn’t from the graveyard, nor was it a brand new car. If I remember correctly, it was a 1996 pontiac grand prix. It ran fine, looked alright, no paint chips or wasn’t damaged. My sister said and I remember it clearly,”I don’t want to show up in that car. I’d rather walk there.” Both me and my father were shocked by this, and to this day because we realized that she didn’t want to have her social status that she established with her friends and acquaintances to be challenged and developed an envious personality towards our lifestyle. To compare, Nadereh, the wife of Amir Behrani (House of Sand and Fog) also had this problem. She was addicted to the high-status life that she had, that even when Amir and his family went to the U.S, she tried to continue their lifestyle when they couldn’t afford it. It’s this addiction which I believe Veblen would agree, is a problem in today’s society.