9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Luxury and Affluence Building II, C5.02

What will happen to luxury consumption?

Research on conspicuous and distinctive consumption from the perspectives of Veblen or Bourdieu has attracted academics for decades. However, empirical evidence supporting these theories is not very strong in all consumer societies. This study focuses on the past, present and future of conspicuous and luxury consumption in Finland, reflecting changes in global and national economy. The data employed are Finnish Household Budget Surveys 1990-2006, and two lifestyle surveys. According to the results, particularly during the economic boom of the 2000s, Finnish people?s income and consumption increased rapidly. The structure of consumption oriented more and more to leisure time and luxury. Expenditure on cars and other vehicles, technology, travelling, culture and health and beauty services multiplied. Also luxury items and services, such as expensive houses, jewellery, luxury holidays, haute couture clothes and branded goods became more familiar to Finnish consumers. This is not only a matter of money, but general attitudes towards consumption have changed.

However, simultaneously with the increase of conspicuous consumption, consumer cultures have become more standardized and globalized, as described by Georg Ritzer, Alan Bryman, and Naomi Klein, for instance. Also in Finland, global store chains, discount stores and hypermarkets have expanded rapidly, and the popularity of cheap mass products have increased. Economic depression will probably accelerate this development. Also the worry about environmental issues may re-change the consumption patterns of Finnish households. It is likely that luxury consumption will go down in the future. The interesting question is how much.