Rethinking Social Distinction by Jean-Pascal Daloz (auth.)

By Jean-Pascal Daloz (auth.)

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Accordingly, the point is not to determine whether one theorist is more convincing than the other overall. Rather, it consists in moving toward an analytical framework that is less reliant on ethnocentric propositions and in providing a more comprehensive account of the variations and significant differences uncovered by wide-ranging research. The purpose of this chapter is to restate the complex phenomena that can be conveniently subsumed under the dual categories of conspicuousness and what I call ‘unconspicuousness’1 in a way that better reflects their multifaceted logics.

From Sources of Dissatisfaction to Constructive Propositions 15 own ad hoc terminology, a comparative approach is no longer possible. 30 The dilemma facing us is that we must be able to operate at a sufficient level of generalisation without falling prey to excessive universalism. g. g. g. sprezzatura or snob). To sum up, the inductive method proposed here as a safe course between the twin perils of ethnocentrism and reductionism consists of: (a) appealing to the authority of conventional models of interpretation only at the condition that they make sense in a particular context without giving a priori explanatory precedence to any of them; (b) being sufficiently open-minded to recognise those cases for which new theorising, or at least a revision of existing theories, is required; (c) taking a cautious stance toward concepts with a universalistic ring and toward the grand theories that rely on them, while encouraging studies that are attentive to local perceptions.

Needless to say, the desire for publicity is particularly manifest in the case of newcomers endeavouring to secure their position on the social scene. g. the Ottoman, the Medici, the Bonaparte) that were only too eager to establish themselves against prevailing ones. Contemporary situations include the frenzy with which nouveaux riches acquire positional goods in emergent countries suddenly enjoying rapid economic growth or after years of deprivation under a collectivist regime. In relation to this type of confrontation between well-established elites and upstarts, a widely accepted view in the literature on social distinction is what I On Ostentation and Understatement 21 am tempted to call the ‘pseudo-iron law of old money/new money’.

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