Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

B3, P46, Z13

Key Words

Conspicuous Consumption, Consumption Patterns, Invidious Emulation, Kardashian-Based Economy, Thorstein Veblen


This inquiry seeks to establish that connections can indeed be made between Thorstein Veblen's contributions towards our understanding of social stratification related to patterns of consumption, and the rise in importance of the Kardashian family. We take Veblen’s seminal and enduring book, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions [1899] and relate some of the ideas therein to what is being coined herein as a “Kardashian-Based Economy.” By drawing connections between selected ideas that Veblen's advanced, and some of the influences displayed by some members of the Kardashian family on consumer culture, we aim to understand the interplays between social status, consumption patterns, and cultural values in contemporary times. It is noted that through their reality TV shows, along with their ubiquitous presence in various venues on social media, the family name has essentially become synonymous with wealth and excesses in material consumption, effectively embodying principles of a definable and contemporary “leisure class” with influences affecting consumer behavior across the globe. It can be argued that the Kardashian-Based Economy could be associated with what Veblen defined as a type of “conspicuous consumption” that when emulated leads to the emergence of novel social hierarchies. Understanding these relationships helps to shed light on the dynamics of contemporary consumer culture and the plausible influences of high-profile figures—such as the Kardashians.


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