(K. Brent Tomer),
The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class. By Elizabeth Currid-Halkett. Princeton University Press; 254 pages; $29.95 and £24.95.
STATUS symbols are as old as humanity itself. It was only once ancient Rome became rich enough for plebeians to decorate their homes that elites sought to do one better by installing mosaics in their villas; in Victorian England working-class women began to don worsted stockings to mimic the silk hosiery of the 1%. At the end of the 19th century Thorstein Veblen, an American sociologist, decried the “conspicuous leisure” of the robber barons of his age, who set themselves apart through their ability to avoid labour; he went on to bemoan the “conspicuous consumption” of the working classes seeking to imitate the wealthy’s access to luxury goods.
Conspicuous consumption persists today. But just as the patricians of classical times changed their habits…Continue reading