The Status of Status Games

By Eric Crampton 26/12/2014


I don’t worry too much about notions that consumption is driven by status-seeking. Not because it isn’t – it would be surprising if at least some consumption weren’t status-driven. Rather, because status-seeking affects just about everything, from consumption to not consuming to leisure to exercise and more. 

The richest entrepreneurs got that way by coming up with new goods and services to make the rest of us better off; in earlier eras, they’d have sought fame and renown through displays of prowess in killing people in battles. I prefer today’s version.

Here’s Hanson on the status of status-games.

But if you start to learn that many people you know are starting to see conspicuous authenticity as just another way that posers vie for status, then of course your community will come to not accept that as giving real status. No, you’ll start to see some new kinds of behavior as the sort of thing that people do who don’t care about status, but are just being “real”.

Then you’ll start to become aware that other people that you know agree with this new attitude of yours. You’ll get more comfortable with saying that you approve of these sorts of behavior in others, with hearing others say the same thing, and you’ll notice that you feel good when other people credit you with such behavior. You and your associates will all feel good about themselves, knowing they they are all good people who deserve respect because they do these behaviors, behaviors that they all know are not about status seeking.

At which point these new behaviors will have become your new status game. You see, status-seeking behavior must be a respected behavior that isn’t seen as overtly status seeking. Because we all agree that we don’t respect behavior that is done mainly to gain status. Even though we do, we do, we very much do.

Wellington has some major authenticity hipster beard-quality status-games going on in which I refuse to play a part.

In related news, a quarter of all Welshmen are descended from 20 men who won a particularly nasty status game fifteen-hundred years ago. Bill Gates has nothin’ on them.

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