THE CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION PHENOMENON IN EGYPT: Introduction

Introduction

The consumerism which manifests itself in luxury, extravagancy is an old phenomenon over the civil development of the human communities. The well-known economist John Kenneth Galbraith, 1958 wrote his book entitled ‘Affluent Society’ in the mid of last century. He criticized and warned against the phenomenon of rushing towards producing and encouraging the artificial goods with the purpose of profitability at the expense of the public services. However, under the absence of the values and principles that control the behavioral consumption, it is difficult to lessen the problem and control it. Although the consumption behavior depends on the individual and the society purchasing power according to the market laws ‘supply and demand’, it is not only an economic phenomenon but a phenomenon where other religious, cultural, psychological, technological, political and social factors are entwined. There are multiple nature and fields of conspicuous consumption as its shapes differ according to its affecting factors.

Ali Abdul Aziz 2013 explained that the conspicuous consumption behavior is generally divided into the usual conspicuous consumption: that is, the reasonable and normal spending according to the conspicuous behavior criteria prevailed in the society and according to the financial ability. The extravagant or luxurious conspicuous consumption: the unusual and extravagant qualitative and quantitative spending due to imitation which does not suit the person’s financial ability; it may lead the individual or the society to psychological and social problems.

The conspicuous consumption phenomenon is used for the consumption of certain goods that are not valued for their properties, but for what they represent of social prestige and self-transcendence. The conspicuous consumption is considered as spending on complementary goods and on some occasion unnecessary characterized by extravagancy with the intention of boasting and showing to compensate for a particular social shortage. Therefore, it is considered as absorption of resources and income; as it is spending without return. The phenomenon of conspicuous consumption has started in Egypt with the beginning of implementing the economic opening policy in the early 1970s and till now (the society of consumption and imitation). It leads to the increase of economic inflation rates and the increase of sharp corruption and illegal earning in an attempt to look for fast richness.

The consumption in Egypt has taken a showing behavior embodied in limitless spending on clothes, food, housing, jewelry, decoration, furniture, electrical sets, mobile phones, luxurious schools and universities, occasions, banquets, transportation and travel and others. This is in addition to what is called the phenomenon of the elite communities in Egypt (the closed compounds communities, luxurious tourist resorts with their palaces, villas, gardens, swimming pools, sports courts, recreational centers, golf courts, horse riding and race, certain-groups limited membership clubs). In addition the spread of molls and shopping centers that have foreign names such as (dream land, Beverly Hills, Palm Hills, Bell Fill, Gardinia, Steala Di Mary, Qattamiya Heights, Utopia, and others) and their related conspicuous, consuming and investing style of extravagancy which does not suit a poor country in a dire need for effective investments to increase its productive wealth and provide job opportunities for the unemployed (Mahmoud Abdel-Fadeel, 2012). Therefore, it can be said that the luxurious conspicuous consumption (consumption fever or consumption avidness) has recently become in Egypt not less dangerous than the psychological danger of addiction of alcohol or drugs. In addition to the spread of the spontaneous purchasing phenomenon through buying conspicuous goods which the buyer has not planned to buy before entering the shopping store (Kamal Tawfiq Khatab, 2007).

As such the conspicuous consumption, which reflects a psychological stimulus of satisfying moderate necessary needs, turns to increasing form of consumption extravagancy. The conspicuous consumption might be related to social stimuli such as the desire to cope with the social style. Hat is, coping up with the society in its consumption aspects regardless of the financial and social classes’ difference among the individuals. The behavior of conspicuous consumption increases as a means of joining the higher classes of the society (the membership of the poor in the community of the rich). This matter constitutes pressure on some families at the social aspect (Zeid Al-Romany, 2004). Among the other reasons that increased the sharpness of the conspicuous consumption in Egypt after implementing the economic opening policy are the involvement in the economic globalization age, aspirations and ambitions revolution, the change of consumption patterns and the spread of multi-national world companies with the marking and promoting their products through attractive psychological commercial advertisements in all media, fairs and streets to spread the conspicuous consumption culture.

In addition to the role played by the banks and financing institutions through financial temptation, provision of financial facilities for individuals by lending or borrowing (indebtedness culture) to finance unjustified conspicuous consumption. The result is dumping the Egyptian families into debts for long years. The psychological factors are considered as other reasons and justifications behind the conspicuous consumption pressures prevailed in the society in order to compensate the deprivation and inferiority complex of having things and properties that were not satisfied during the childhood stage (the culture of imitating others and dependence).

Notably, females outperform males in the conspicuous consumption because of their interest in the conspicuous, formal and esthetic things (accessories, cosmetics and cosmetic surgeries) more than males due to the habits, traditions and religious factors that steadfast the concepts that females do not fully bear the burdens of family support as compared to males who are concerned with family support in Egypt. With the recently growing increase of the conspicuous consumption phenomenon, its bandwagon effects have started to move to the low-income groups, particularly youth without being aware of its size and risks. It was a motive for some youths to earn money through illegal and fast ways to stratify their conspicuous consumption desire.

In the light of the early mentioned facts, the supply and demand theory loses its credibility in reality as the aspects of social position and richness lead to further purchase of these conspicuous goods whenever their prices rise up in what is known as (Veblen goods) while its demanded quantities reduced whenever their prices decreased in a contrast to the hypothesis of the economic theory.