What does conspicuous leisure look like nowadays?

At the end of the 19th century, a sociologist named Thorstein Veblen argued that privileged people flaunt their wealth in three ways: conspicuous consumption (showing that they can afford to buy products); conspicuous leisure (showing that they can afford to waste time); and conspicuous waste (showing that they can afford to throw things away). Recently, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste have lost a lot of their worth as status symbols because goods have become more affordable and both practices are associated with environmental destruction, but conspicuous leisure (which can entail anything from sitting around and doing nothing to lavish vacations to memorizing pointless social rules and regulations) doesn’t seem to carry the same stigma. Classically, conspicuous leisure was embodied in an aristocrat who sits around in a large mansion and looks down on people who perform manual labor, but what are some modern equivalents, either in real life or in our media?

  • In my opinion, something that complicates the issue of what conspicuous leisure looks like nowadays is the idea of self-care. Individuals engage in activities that, in previous generations, would have been considered "leisure": video games, social media, even long bubble baths. Many of those who spend time practicing self-care would claim that such activities are not wasting time because it is helping them to relax and recharge in order to be rested enough to resume productivity. As someone who is a bit skeptical of many things labeled as "self-care," I have noticed that even people who claim their "self-care" is not wasting time still complain about not being energized enough for work or socialization, so is their leisure time really all that productive? I don't think so. I still would claim that the activities I mentioned, as well as other activities such as movie-watching and lazing around the house, are common types of conspicuous leisure nowadays. – rachelwitzig 4 years ago
  • That's actually an interesting point; I hadn't thought about the connection between conspicuous leisure and self-care, but you might be right. People claim that self-care preserves their mental health, but the "self-care" they prefer tends to consist mostly of their favorite hobbies (some of which, like watching TV or playing video games, are neutral or even net negatives for mental health), and rarely something with any clear connection to improving mental health (i.e., CBT, religious services, joining a volunteer organization, etc.). – Debs 4 years ago
  • I think in the modern world where we view everybody's lives through the lense of social media it's a persistent idea in many minds. The idea that everybody is living their best life and basking in the sun, strolling through cities and generally enjoying their time in a leisurely fashion is often a misconception for a lot of the social examples. In a world rife with social media influencers it would be interesting to weigh up both sides of the digital frame and see it from the "consumer" perspective as well as those posting online and the work that goes into it. – CAntonyBaker 4 years ago

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