Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Club - Spent by Geoffrey Miller

Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist. In this book he examines conspicuous consumption in terms of the six personality traits: intelligence, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability and extroversion. According to the Miller, our purchases are powerful indicators of our personality and are used to lure in suitable mates and friends. It's a pretty good read and Miller has a good sense of humor which makes the reading much more enjoyable.He goes through the 6 personality traits one by one. The chapter on conscientiousness went through topics like "High-Maintenance Products", "Pets as Conscientiousness Indicators" and "Collecting". Uh-oh, Collecting. What does he have to say about collecting?

"High conscientiousness shades over into obsessive-compulsive behavior. Among consumers, this often takes the form of collecting - acquiring large numbers of products within a particular category, plus the expertise to discuss them intelligently with like-minded collectors."

OK, so what?

"A high, even toxic, level of conscientiousness is foremost in the resourceful acquisition, ordered display, and habitual care of one's collection. Runaway collecting is the apotheosis of runaway consumerism. With the eBay collectibles section, everyone can now participate in hoarding and fetishizing of objects across most imaginable categories: firefighting memorabilia, Desert Storm militaria, Disneyana, Pez dispensers, snow globes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer figurines, nautical decor, replica movie swords, vintage pet-food ads, vintage flue covers, and risque postcards".

Well, at least he didn't mention baseball cards.

"Yet one person's obsessive hoarding is another person's rational investment strategy, or his acquisition of tools and materials required for some enthusiasm. I contemplate the 2700 pairs of shoes that Imelda Marcos collected in the Malacanang Palace, and feel moral outrage for the poor of the Philippines. I contemplate the comparable number of used books that I have bought, and feel like a dutiful researcher. We can all rationalize our cabinets of curiosities."

Let the rationalizing begin.

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