Publication Details

DiMuzio, T. (2013). The plutonomy of the 1%: conspicuous consumption in the new gilded age (YouTube Video). The 3rd Annual Forum on Capital as Power, York University 2012: Capitalizing Power: The Qualities and Quantities of Accumulation Toronto, Canada: York University.

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In 2005, Citigroup released a report that echoed a famous quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: ‘Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me’. Penned by a team of global equity strategists, their report – Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances – advanced the thesis that the world was dividing into two main blocs: 1) the plutonomy powered by the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy; and 2) the rest of humanity. The report also argued that income disparities were likely to deepen in the future, making the global rich the key drivers of differential-equity returns. Although this paper explores some of the quantitative dimensions of the plutonomy thesis, its main aim is to draw out some of the qualitative dimensions connected to the differential power and consumption patterns of the global rich in the New Gilded Age. It does so by advancing the idea that money does not just represent a store of value, a medium of exchange and a unit of account, but also the power to claim the labour of others and natural resources in commodity form.