While reading Holt’s extensive case study on Cultural Capital and American Consumption, I was particularly interested in his concluding thoughts on materialism as a class practice. Holt asserts that materialism is a dominant ideology among economic elites in modern capitalist societies. The cultural elites, however, tend to reject materialism and develop tastes and practices in opposition to materialist behavior. Holt cited these differences throughout his case study, specifically when analyzing consumer subjectivity and the comparison of consumption practices between LCCs and HCCs. He found that LCCs tend to value abundance and luxury, opposed to HCCs who value metaphysical aspects of life. For example, Kathryn (HCC) prefers to decorate her home with artisanal objects that are personally meaningful, rather than mass-produced goods. “Things that matter to me are things that remind me of things, rather than things that have their own intrinsic value,” Kathryn explained. To the contrary, Holt cited many instances in which LCCs consume based on intrinsic value, such as the purchasing of new and large homes, opposed to smaller homes with charm and history.

In Holt’s assessment of materialism as a class practice, he argues that HCC idealists believe that those who indulge in material consumption do so to acquire prestige and high status. However, Holt believes the rejection of materialism has led to their own set of exclusionary practices in which they “invert materialism to affirm their societal position,” (20). There is a clear irony that Holt is addressing in this claim. While attempting to reject a status-centered ideology, idealists are in fact creating their own exclusionary social boundaries. I agree that HCCs may inadvertently create restricted practices, however to describe them as “inveterate status seekers,” seems to be a sweeping statement that is not applicable to all HCCs.

In exploring the importance of authenticity, Holt mentions Charles, who has a strong aversion to mass culture and is therefore completely ignorant to it. Charles exemplifies some ‘selfish’ aspects, such as redirecting several questions towards his own creations and those of his friends. However, is Charles’ ignorance of mass culture an attempt to acquire a type of higher status? While Charles’ lifestyle is not one I can understand or relate with, it seems as if someone so removed from mass culture would have no interest in prioritizing his status within a social hierarchy, regardless of his or her economic or cultural capital. Therefore, although Charles is ‘inverting materialism,’ is it fair to say he is doing so in order to affirm his societal position?

 To the contrary, it is certainly noteworthy that many of the HCCs were acutely aware (and occasionally defensive) when they relayed information that might jeopardize their perceived cultural capital. This was evident when Rebecca professed that she was not as knowledgeable in regards to food and cooking. Her defensiveness proves that while she might not be actively “seeking” a higher status, HCCs can be just as conscious of their social status as the ‘materialistic’ LCCs. Therefore, Holt’s claims are legitimate in equivocating LCCs and HCCs desire for a certain status. However, while LCCs measure their societal position based on the inherent value of goods, HCCs understand “status” based on knowledge, skills, and experience. 

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