Simmel Fashion Essay

Every economic choice is bound not only to the pure computational rationality of individuals, but is influenced by "irrational" factors, i.e.

by social imitation and by what Simmel calls the "need for distinction", which is the contrary of imitation.

Moreover, does every fashion, in its distinctiveness, display contempt towards our fellow citizens from whom we are distinguishing ourselves?

In other words, does fashion imply a relationship between social envy and contempt? this quiet personal usurpation of the envied property contains a kind of antidote, which occasionally counter-acts the evil effects of this feeling of envy." (F, p.

A game which does not concern just a small portion of consumers - the snobs - but all or nearly all members of a culture.

Do we thus imitate persons who we admire and/or envy because we perceive them to be superior?But social life changes in so far as the balance between the socialising force and the de-socialising force is always unstable and provisional.Fashion is an example of the way in which actual social life always includes in some way its own opposite, an asocial life.Even economists - who sooner or later have to take into consideration fashion phenomena - consider a phenomenon called "snob demand".From an economic point of view, fashion is a market constituted only of snobs - essentially, a snob is a consumer who stops buying a product when the price drops too much.Undoubtedly, some of us tend more towards imitation (and thus to conformism) while others tend to distinction (and thus to eccentricity and dissidence), but fashion's flux needs both of these contradictory tendencies in order to work.In short, Simmel argues that we need to postulate two radical drives which he attributes to human nature.On one hand, each of us has tendency to imitate others.On the other, we also have a tendency to distinguish ourselves from others.140.) In short, envy creates a social link - not in spite its negative aspect, but precisely because of it.I can envy somebody only if I admire them, to the degree that I make them my ideal of behaviour or social achievement.


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