Tag Archives: nicolas-baumard

Equal Societies Good for All

The more unequal a society’s income dis­tri­bu­tion, the more health and social prob­lems ail both the rich and the poor.

With this the­ory brought to his atten­tion through the “quite fas­cin­at­ing book“ The Spir­it Level, Nic­olas Bau­mard dis­plays the evid­ence to sup­port the the­ory that eco­nom­ic inequal­ity is bad for all inhab­it­ants of a coun­try before con­sid­er­ing some pos­sible explan­a­tions, and look­ing at what this means in terms of poverty and cli­mate change.

It is com­mon know­ledge that in rich soci­et­ies the poor have short­er lives and suf­fer more from almost every social prob­lem. In [The Spir­it Level], [the authors] demon­strate that more unequal soci­et­ies are bad for almost every­one – the well-off as well as the poor […]. The remark­able data the book lays out and the meas­ures it uses are like a ‘spir­it level’ which we can hold up to com­pare the con­di­tions of dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies. The dif­fer­ences revealed, even between rich mar­ket demo­cra­cies, are strik­ing. Almost every mod­ern social and envir­on­ment­al prob­lem – ill-health, lack of com­munity life, viol­ence, drugs, obesity, men­tal ill­ness, long work­ing hours, big pris­on pop­u­la­tions – is more likely to occur in a less equal soci­ety.

Base­ball fan? Bau­mard also points out that “the more equal the salar­ies in a base-ball team are, the bet­ter its per­form­ance”.

Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Conspicuous Consumption

Won­der­ing why we freely and often make our tastes pub­lic (spe­cific­ally, our brand pref­er­ences through Facebook’s ‘Like’ mech­an­ism), Nic­olas Bau­mard dis­cusses how we pur­chase goods to dis­play our good taste:

In a way, Face­book can be seen as a handy device to send a lot of very pre­cise sig­nals about your opin­ion and your val­ues! (The aver­age user becomes a fan of four pages every month, accord­ing to Face­book). Note that this the­ory of mar­ket­ing is just a form of hon­est sig­nal the­ory, advoc­ated pre­vi­ously by Veblen in social sci­ences and Zahavi in evol­u­tion­ary bio­logy. The dif­fer­ence is that, instead of being focused on the dis­play of wealth, this bour­dieus­i­an explan­a­tion is inter­ested by oth­er qual­it­ies that also need to be adverstised by indi­vidu­als such as intel­li­gence, social con­nec­tions, mor­al dis­pos­i­tion, etc.

To con­clude, people may buy razors advert­ised by Beck­ham not because they think that these razors made Beck­ham suc­cess­ful or because they trust Beck­ham is such mat­ters but because buy­ing a razor linked to Beck­ham con­vey a cer­tain mes­sage about their dis­tinc­tion.

I feel that the ‘Like’ func­tion­al­ity is an expense-less meth­od of con­spicu­ous con­sump­tion: sig­nalling your likes and brand pref­er­ences without hav­ing to actu­ally pur­chase any­thing (we are say­ing “I aspire to be the type of per­son who likes x, y, z” or maybe more accur­ately “I want you to think I’m the type of per­son who likes x, y, z”).

I par­tic­u­larly like the intro­duct­ory sec­tion on how Facebook’s ‘Like’ func­tion­al­ity has doubled brand integ­ra­tion on the site, com­pared to the old ‘Become a fan’ meth­od. It has appar­ently reduced the men­tal bar­ri­ers (lowered the “threshold”, they say) for users to sig­nal their brand pref­er­ences, mak­ing shar­ing easi­er. And that last bit is key for Face­book.

via The Browser