In The Guardian, Ben Tarnoff writes about "conspicuous production," the new status symbol that, thanks largely to the work culture of Silicon Valley, is now competing with the more traditional sign of wealth, "conspicuous consumption." Importantly, Tarnoff point out that this obsession with "productivity" extends well beyond the workplace. It's evident in, for example, the obsession with exercise among the urban bourgeoisie. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
But the acquisition of insanely expensive commodities isn’t the only way that modern elites project power. More recently, another form of status display has emerged. In the new Gilded Age, identifying oneself as a member of the ruling class doesn’t just require conspicuous consumption. It requires conspicuous production.
If conspicuous consumption involves the worship of luxury, conspicuous production involves the worship of labor. It isn’t about how much you spend. It’s about how hard you work...
But conspicuous production isn’t about meeting one’s material needs. It’s about the public display of productivity as a symbol of class power. In an era of extreme inequality, elites need to demonstrate to themselves and others that they deserve to own orders of magnitude more wealth than everyone else. Cook is approximately 500,000% richer than the average American – but he wakes up at 3.45 in the morning. This is the hallmark of conspicuous production: it justifies the existence of an imperial class by showcasing their superhuman levels of industry.
The irony is that grueling workweeks aren’t exclusively an elite phenomenon. Far from it. Many less fortunate Americans perform similar feats of productivity, although they have fewer incentives and opportunities to advertise it. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that Americans workers work significantly more hours than they did a few decades ago – especially women, black people and the poor. A black woman in the bottom fifth of earners worked 349 more hours in 2015 than she would have in 1979. The reason is simple: wages have barely budged since the 1970s, which means today’s workers have to work harder to make ends meet.
Image: Apple CEO Tim Cook. Via Business Insider UK.