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The Empire of ValueA New Foundation for Economics$
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André Orléan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026970

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026970.001.0001

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Scarcity and Status

Scarcity and Status

(p.85) 3 Scarcity and Status
The Empire of Value

André Orléan

The MIT Press

The neoclassical assumption that utility allows commodities to be valued without giving rise to conflict is rejected. Market actors exist in a state of permanent rivalry, seeking through the purchase of useful goods to increase their relative prestige, that is, their power over others. Following Veblen, it is argued that an internal dynamic works to shape and revise market estimates of utility and fundamental value. Because the process rests on preferences that are endogenously determined as a function of mimetic competition, it becomes possible to explain the phenomenon of perpetual scarcity as the result of a constant attempt to achieve higher social status. Veblen nonetheless overlooked the essentially plastic nature of prestige, and neglected his own insight that the contingency of commodity evaluation depends on the creation and enforcement of social norms to the advantage of those who hold power in a society.

Keywords:   commodity valuation, mimetic competition, power, prestige, scarcity, social status, utility

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