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Cheap is the new Chic

A recent CNN article has some interesting things to say about how the economic crisis is effecting the cultural view of possessions and spending amidst the upper and upper middle class in America:

With the economy in shambles and so many people losing their jobs and homes, it is no longer considered cool to brag about possessions and purchases.

For many during a deepening recession, conspicuous consumption is out and frugality is the new black.

“People have long used the way they shop and what they buy as a way to communicate with other people about their values, their tastes and their interests,” said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California.

“A year ago, what was considered the ultimate status symbol would have been the chicest bag or the most luxurious outfit,” Yarrow added. “Now what’s chic is being the most knowledgeable and efficient at saving money.”

Yarrow said that despite the tough economic times, there are many Americans who still have disposable income.

Those people are choosing not to spend, she said, or making more thoughtful purchases.

This just underscores an utterly important point, especially in relation to Christian critiques of capitalism that turn into tirades against over-consumption. Frugality, thriftiness, and the old fashioned American work ethic is the stuff global capitalism is made of. Far from being a virtue, having people with disposable income stashing it neatly away because thriftiness is the new black is pretty damn sick. 

The culture industry is remarkable efficient these days, wouldn’t you say?


  1. Ben Sternke wrote:

    “Theology has to learn the lesson that the market has taught other subversives who have attempted to reach a mass audience: this system greets subversion and denunciation with mercantile enthusiasm.”
    - Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion, p. 179-180.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  2. james wrote:

    Oh please this is just a culture writer out of material. People are scared to death of being laid off right now. They are not doing anything “stylish”. So now give us your constantly cranky rant about why savings is actually just being controlled by “the powers”. Or better yet, drink another liberating microbrew while preaching about the new black. Theological twenty somethings are so damn annoying. The world exists outside of, and is more complicated than, your senior thesis/blog. Hugs!

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    There there, James. I’m sure a woman of some kind will agree to sleep with you someday and clear all this up.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  4. james wrote:

    Since the spouse’s layoff, “access” hasn’t been a problem. I’m quite lucid.

    Saw this and thought of my favorite Christian highbrow Hipster

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Scroll down the page, you’ll see I’ve been amused by this post for some time.

    Your Favorite Christian Highbrow Hipster

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  6. parishioner wrote:

    “Since the spouse’s layoff, ‘access’ hasn’t been a problem.”

    “Access.” Hot damn. Manly AND a master of love. If only you were single, James . . .

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  7. james wrote:

    Sorry we’re both engineers and it all involves a complicated system of hatches and various plastic devices. There is some technical jargon too. It’s really quite dirty. We like it anyway and yes…..I am the master of love. I wish I could prove it to you!

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  8. parishioner wrote:


    “Were kisses all the joys of bed, one woman would another wed.” Sounds like you and the Bard could prove much to some of those Prop 8ers, if only your profligate wishes were granted. But just embrace your vows, OK? Try a little love and a little less dirt, and try referring to her as “my wife” instead of “the spouse.”

    Single and Pining

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Stop…killing me…

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

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