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Crime And Punishment Of Luxury Consumption

2019/6/12 10:12:00 16

Luxury Goods

Any era of "luxury" renown will provoke an uproar: obviously, in any era, luxury is always morally disgraceful. Even though extravagance does promote some technological innovation and some progress in production to some extent, the breakthrough of moral norms by luxury often impacts the ethical bottom line of human beings, just as Bernard Mandeville's "fable of bees" has been criticized for the same time.

Nevertheless, in eighteenth Century, the great philosopher David Hume wrote an article entitled "renown" for luxury. This "harsh voice" sounded the horn of the consumer society, making the era of "material scarcity" full of creativity. A traditional political economy has been formed in Hume.

More than 200 years later, the consumer society has been riddled with holes. Luxury has become a symbol and label, sticking to various social orders, making this "material rich" society appear weak and weak.

Before and after Marx, when the industrial society was born, and the so-called "post industrial society" (actually a consumer society), the two different political economics, the same is the "consumption" of human behavior, the difference is "consumption" behind the "man" desire full, and how to pursue this desire satisfaction.

From Hume to paudria, luxury has become somewhat confused and lost in the history of consumption.

Name "luxury"

In 1752, Hume threw out an essay on "luxury" in his political essays. The opinions of other articles immediately drew praise from English and French philosophers, but only this piece drew criticism and condemnation.

Although Hume later changed the title to "on the progress of technology", but the text did not change, and the other space was more or less deleted. This also shows that Hume's attitude towards "luxury" has not changed.

How did Hume define luxury?

"Generally speaking, luxury means a great improvement in the satisfaction of various feelings and enjoyment."

The so-called "sensual enjoyment" is that people can get better material comforts and even get more satisfied spiritual enjoyment.

This kind of enjoyment can be moral or moral, so Hume divides luxury into two: the pros and cons of extravagance in society exist at the same time. If luxury is no longer harmful, it will no longer be beneficial.

A civilized society is not a society that is neither naked nor hungry, but a relatively rich society.

Luxury food, luxury horse and rich luxury provide jobs for the poor. "The hard work and hard work of a dish of peas on Christmas table can maintain a life of six months for a whole family."

Everyone has the right to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and the poor also need to satisfy the basic material, so that people will feel the dignity of human being.

However, a general explanation of this "human dignity" is a loss of Hume's intention, because the connotation of this term may be changing in every century, even today, it is still saying that "people want to live with dignity"; the correct way is to put it under the historical background, and then continue to this day, and then re understand it.

It is hard to say that Hume's extravagance is only the material satisfaction of people to basic living materials, without the connotation of symbolic consumption such as class division, status and so on, because in the process of consumption, there is also the spiritual satisfaction of human beings. This kind of self satisfaction includes many other functions in the sociological sense, such as conspicuous consumption or the consumption of "rich banquet" by Moss.

However, the extravagance in Hume's context is more related to the "usefulness" or the use value of things, but less related to the abstract symbols. In other words, the extravagance of Hume seems to be only a means of technological innovation and the liberation of the human self.

It can be considered that Hume's name for "luxury" is the affirmation of human consumption behavior, the promotion of technological progress, and the demand for self liberation of human nature (which is not contradictory to his advocacy of thrift and against extravagance and waste).

"Luxury" means the improvement of human skills, and other desires of human beings will also get more satisfaction in this process.

The progress of art breeds the growth of literature and art, implying the awakening of all kinds of human abilities.

"The spirit of the times affects all skills. Once the human mind awakens from a deep sleep, it will grow and develop its talents in every aspect, improve its skills and enhance its science.

Ignorance is completely abandoned. People enjoy the glory of rational people, enjoy the pleasure of thinking and working, and enjoy the pleasure of cultivating their mind and body. "

In eighteenth Century, it was an era of "awakening the mind", and the emancipation of thinking, labor, and body to heart would be highlighted in the name of "extravagance".

Although "evil" is never "good", "poison" always has "poison", but if human beings are not eroded by extravagant "poison", they are corroded by "poison" such as laziness and selfishness. The latter will only let society become a zombie and a stagnant water, which will only let the human nature lose the brilliance under the shadow of ignorance and blind obedience.

Therefore, the position of luxury or skill in Hume's political economy occupies a position only after the driving force of "passion for interest", which drives economic and social progress along with greed.

This is exactly the main point of Hume's essay on luxury, which is completely different from Rousseau's, and is very different from Adam Simy. The two scholars who have a close contact with Hume have severely criticized the defeated virtue and condemned luxury together. Although the latter knows that the poor and the rich can bring the increase of social wealth at last, this is a deep concern for human's moral failure.

However, neither of them openly acknowledged the role of this poison; Hume admitted: because this is one of the contradictory human nature.

Shortcut to consumption: Credit

Even so, Hume would not sing praises for luxury. He did not advocate social order as Mandeville did. It was constructed by "evil", extravagance, greed and so on. As a historian, Hume also saw the fragility of credit in the consumer society, and behind the credit was the consumption of future, and even the luxury consumption in the future.

Although Hume's understanding of social credit is based on the wartime and the situation of Europe in seventeen and eighteenth Century, his view is that modern credit society is not outdated at all.

Is it not a popular practice in the modern society to mortgage the state revenue and let the descendants pay their debts? Issuing bonds can really stimulate the development of the economy, but it can also plunge a country into poverty and weakness. Once people neglect the credit system, the credit will collapse like the fragile china, the whole society will collapse, and the bones will be buried beneath it.

A few years ago, the disaster of Wall Street's credit expansion was the best example.

Therefore, Hume said: "not the state destroys credit, or credit destroys the state" (Hume: on social credit).

Social credit is fragile and hard to build, but it can be rebuilt again and again.

A credit system collapsed and another credit system began to build.

This is because people's desire at all times urges the reconstruction of credit to facilitate themselves, and credit in turn constantly tame desire.

If credit consumption is not very common in eighteenth Century, there is no habit of domestication, then from twentieth Century until now, such a seemingly very rich consumer society is consuming training and social domestication towards consumer society.

In September 15, 2008, Lehman brothers London Company employees left the company.

Baudrillard simply referred to the decisive role of credit in the consumer society.

He said:

"Credit is, on the surface, an extra reward, a shortcut to prosperity, and a hedonistic character such as" getting rid of old fetters such as savings. "

But in fact, credit is the domestication of social and economic systems for compulsory savings and economic calculation for generations of consumers, otherwise they may avoid the necessary planning and become an inability to consume in their survival.

Credit is a training program for squeezing savings and regulating demand, just as paid labor is a rational formula for squeezing labor and increasing productivity.

(Baudrillard: consumer society, two, eight, 63 pages)

The consumer society opens up the door to people's desires: to buy whatever you want with your credit, then you will have the abundance you want and satisfy all your desires, and finally, pay your life's labor to repay the debt.

In the process of continuous mortgage and debt repayment, in the process of domestication of several generations of consumers, credit has finally become an indispensable partner of post industrial society.

Individuals can mortgage credit, institutions or companies can also mortgage credit, and the state also collateralized credit.

Let's see today's credit cards, RV mortgages and so on, which are full of everyday life. The risk investment and credit evaluation of enterprises and institutions, and even the credit system of a sovereign country in an economic system, are all under the invisible excavator of consumption capacity.

There is no denying that credit is a powerful stimulus to the development of the whole economy and society. The desire of greed is satisfied under the promise of credit and continues to be excavated in depth.

This is a credit economic system formed under the charisma of "imagination" and "illusion".

"Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are spending their lives on the production of labor, but they are increasingly being used to produce and innovate their own needs and benefits."

(consumer society, 62 pages)

The whole social economic system is domesticated not only by individual consumers, but also by consumers of societies and groups, or even domesticating the entire socio-economic system itself.

Exchange and consumption are alienated into various symbols and symbols in the domestication and domestication of this economic system.

Symbols of luxury

Modern society is a credit society. Luxury or consumption are expanded under the promise of credit.

The connotation of modern luxury or consumption has quietly changed in the sense of economics. The traditional political economy is a theory about demand (the most extensive sense), goods and satisfaction. Baudrillard thinks that traditional theory has been replaced by symbolic political economics, because of the change of goods and needs.

"In consumption, goods are changing to a wide range of paradigms, among which another language is being expressed and something else is being spoken"; "the objective characteristics of demand become more difficult to determine because it is insatiable and never satisfied" (consumer society, 59 pages).

Consumable items, such as refrigerators, can be used for refrigerating lockers. They can be luxuries without their functions. They can be symbols of users' economic ability, and what is not important. Its significance lies in the difference between it and other things in the difference of symbols according to meaning. (Baudrillard: Critique of symbolic political economics, two, nine, 45 pages).

The logic of its use value and exchange value obviously can not be explained by traditional political economics.

Similarly, clothing, food, shelter, walking tools, language, culture, science, religion and the body themselves need to be viewed in a new way in consumer theory.

In the condition of scarcity of resources (the so-called affluent society is relatively abundant, and scarce resources and scarcity is the normal state of human society), "luxury" does not mean that you have a "thing", but that you have a symbol.

The art auction market embodies the most typical symbol exchange system in modern society.

At auction, the aesthetic value of art works is neglected because of being ignored and denied. The exchange value and symbolic value in economic sense have lost their status and become the followers of symbol / value.

The entry of art into the auction market means a kind of "investment". The importance of aesthetic function is negligible, hidden behind the sale and purchase, as a sublime rational sublimation.

Today, the art auction market in every corner of the world is full of this symbol consumption.

In traditional society, noble works of art still have luxurious faces, but true artistic appreciation has become a luxury.

Similarly, driving a Mercedes and opening a Jetta, wearing Chanel suits and wearing cheap goods on the stalls, living in the top seaside villas and living in a small apartment downtown represent two different classes, different positions and identities.

The ideology formed by a significant class difference, with the help of the media, conveys this social order to every corner of the world, and inspires Adam Simy's desire for "better one" s own condition, to mobilize every passions in human nature to achieve this goal, to build social order in the order of symbols, so as to consolidate this ideology and consolidate this social order again.

Advertisements in TV, Internet and print media are "seducing" people's desire every day: having "this", you have what status and become what person; you must have that "because" it is popular among certain people, it represents fashion and trend, otherwise you will be out of date.

It is not necessary to care about the use of "this" or "that". You only need to have the meaning of this symbol.

Paudria calls it the worship of "symbols" and reinterprets the present society with Marx's Commodity Fetishism: "fetishism is actually associated with symbols and objects, emptied of objects, lost its physical existence and history, reduced to a mark of difference, and a miniature of the whole differential system."

(critique of symbolic political economics, 80 pages), as Baudrillard said, the satisfaction of desires is not based on the happiness brought about by physical objects, but on the basis of system.

Satisfaction and destruction of desire: Dialectics of luxury

In the so-called post industrial society, the satisfaction of desire has become grotesque, because desire is constantly changing and dying away, and constantly producing and innovating.

People are constantly reminded that "do not miss this kind of enjoyment" and "do not miss that experience". All kinds of "design" pformation methods named in the name of beauty and happiness stimulate the desire of the human body and make people pay various kinds of price for it.

This is not wrong for the economy and society -- just like the guidance of the invisible hand; the wrong is that people's desire satisfaction has already failed to find the direction and is far away from the door of happiness.

In the long eighteenth Century, Hume said that human happiness is reflected in three aspects, namely, "labor, entertainment and leisure". The three will be mixed in different proportions before they can find the unity of happiness, so that they will not destroy the interest of happiness.

Today, the infinite expansion of desire seems to have completely destroyed this interest.

Desire urges people to work continuously, urges people to enjoy the fruits of labor, and to invest in the next labour after a moment's happiness.

The sense of accomplishment of work vanishes in a moment, entertainment becomes dull, and leisure is long dominated by desire.

People began to emancipate themselves in the age of enlightenment, but they were bound to become more and more tightly in modern society.

Baudrillard said: desire is not satisfied in "freedom", but in the rule - not in the pparency of value, but in the opacity of value codes.

This is the code of desire. This desire "needs" to restore the rules of the game -- it needs these rules to satisfy itself.

It is the rules of desire that create social order only when the desire is satisfied.

Social order is combined with the subversive order (desire satisfaction) that has been constantly enlightened by the fetishism, which is able to reproduce itself. (critique of symbolic political economics, 211 pages).

As a result, when people satisfy their desires, they are also destroying the satisfaction of desire. People should enjoy happiness and happiness in the consumption of luxury goods, and feel the promotion and liberation of human nature in the process of technological progress, and tend to be perfect and perfect in human nature. Unfortunately, people feel no self satisfaction in satisfying their desires, but feel more and more unhappy, and human nature is becoming more and more incomplete.


Hume in eighteenth Century could not predict consumerism in post industrial society, but his teachings from human nature are not yet out of date.

Greed is human nature and diligence. If we prohibit "evil" luxury instead of laziness and indifference in human nature, diligence and progress will vanish with luxury. Human nature has its own evil side. Only good education can let people learn to respect, learn to be cautious and restrained, and learn to become an "elegant man".

Hume hoped that people could emancipate themselves in the balance and comparison of good and evil, under the positive influence of luxury and consumption, but this task has not yet been completed to this day.

In twentieth Century, Baudrillard embarks directly from consumption, revealing the relationship between the slave owner and the owner, and carries out the critique of symbolic political economics.

In the era of Hume, though human nature is full of contradictions, people have not yet completely become slaves to things. At that time, the consumer society is in the ascendant. In nineteenth Century, the consumer society became a monster, devouring all human nature and dominating all things and people.

Under the magic of this monster, all the contents of human nature are reduced to the slaves of things. At this time, the consumer society is at the right time.

Indeed, the criticism field today lacks the criticism of "alienation" of consumption, but what we should do before is to explore the consumption and extravagance before "alienation".

The criticism of luxury dialectics in consumer society is probably a path.

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