最近读到Steven Pinker在HOW THE MIND WORKS
Veblen proposed that the psychology of prestige was driven by three "pecuniary canons of taste": conspicuous leisure, conspicuous consumption, and conspicuous waste. Status symbols are flaunted and coveted not necessarily because they are useful or attractive (pebbles, daisies, and pigeons are quite beautiful, as we rediscover when they delight young children), but often because they are so rare, wasteful, or pointless that only the wealthy can afford them. They include clothing that is too delicate, bulky, constricting, or stain-prone to work in, objects too fragile for casual use or made from unobtainable materials, functionless objects made with prodigious labor, decorations that consume energy, and pale skin in lands where the plebeians work in the fields and suntans in lands where they work indoors. The logic is: You can't see all my wealth and earning power (my bank account, my lands, all my allies and flunkeys), but you can see my gold bathroom fixtures. No one could afford them without wealth to spare, therefore you know I am wealthy.
Conspicuous consumption is counterintuitive because squandering wealth can only reduce it, bringing the squanderer down to the level of his or her rivals. But it works when other people's esteem is useful enough to pay for and when not all the wealth or earning power is sacrificed. If I have a hundred dollars and you have forty, I can give away fifty, but you can't; I will impress others and still be richer than you. The principle has been confirmed from an unlikely source, evolutionary biology. Biologists since Darwin had been puzzled by displays like the peacock's tail, which impresses the peahen but consumes nutrients, hinders movement, and attracts predators. The biologist Amotz Zahavi proposed that the displays evolved because they were handicaps. Only the healthiest animals could afford them, and females choose the healthiest birds to mate with. Theoretical biologists were initially skeptical, but one of them, Alan Grafen, later proved that the theory was sound.
Conspicuous consumption works when only the richest can afford luxuries. When the class structure loosens, or sumptuous goods (or good imitations) become widely available, the upper middle class can emulate the upper class, the middle class can emulate the upper middle class, and so on down the ladder. The upper class cannot very well stand by as they begin to resemble the hoi polloi; they must adopt a new look. But then the look is emulated once again by the upper middle class and begins to trickle down again, prompting the upper class to leap to yet a different look, and so on. The result is fashion. The chaotic cycles of style, in which the chic look of one decade becomes dowdy or slutty, nerdy or foppish in the next, has been explained as a conspiracy of clothing makers, an expression of nationalism, a reflection of the economy, and much else. But Quentin Bell, in his classic analysis of fashion, On Human Finery, showed that only one explanation works: people follow the rule, "Try to look like the people above you; if you're at the top, try to look different from the people below you."
（摘自Steven Pinker: HOW THE MIND WORKS,p.500）