The Concept of Luxury from a Consumer Culture Perspective

  • Tisiruk Potavanich

Student thesis: Phd


Academic perspectives on the meanings of luxury often link luxury to status or conspicuous consumption, assuming that luxury derives its meaning primarily from a traditional viewpoint, in which it is narrowly associated with generic economic and social displays of superiority, as attained through the rhetoric of wealth (Vickers and Renand, 2003; Vigneron and Johnson, 2004). However, this traditional view of luxury fails to appreciate the cultural and emotional complexity of luxury consumption: this rather limited interpretation therefore risks rendering consumers as passive and primarily homogeneous entities. This thesis argues that the term 'luxury' has little meaning unless it is integrated within the current 'practices' of consumer culture. Thus, the study conceptualises luxury from a consumer perspective, wherein meanings are understood as resulting from luxury consumption practices adopted by diverse sets of consumers across cultures. Sixteen UK and Sixteen Thai undergraduate and postgraduate students were selected to participate in two stages of data collection, involving collage construction, in-depth interviews and further fieldwork. The findings extends the existing research on luxury by developing four practices of luxury consumption: caretaker, escapist, self-transformation, and status-based. Accordingly, the study proposes an alternation view of luxury as 'everyday luxury', a view in which consumers can transfer and incorporate self-defined luxuries into everyday contexts. The notion of everyday luxury fundamentally allows us to move beyond a purely materialistic understanding of luxury in order to reach a metaphysical account of luxury as a subjective, moral, ephemeral and immaterial concept present in our everyday living. Moreover, this idea considerably fulfils our understanding of contemporary luxury so that traditional luxury (Veblen, 1902) and everyday luxury can co-exist within the concept of luxury. Overall, the subjective truth of the meaning of luxury in a cross-cultural context is regarded as combining the construct and outcome of a reciprocal interaction between both traditional and everyday luxury, the understanding of the self and morality within different cultures and societies, and different reflections on individuals' lived experiences.
Date of Award3 Jan 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEmma Banister (Supervisor) & Stuart Roper (Supervisor)


  • Consumer Culture
  • Luxury
  • Practice Theory

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