Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

“Conspicuous Consumption”, but no mention or citation of Veblen. Nor did Packard's (1959) 
best-seller, The Status Seekers, cite Veblen. Within social psychology, Veblen could be 
considered a forerunner of the achievement motivation research (e.g. McClelland, Atkinson, 
Clark, & Lowell, 1953; McClelland, 1961), though it is Weber (1904/1930) who is noted as the 
originator, with no mention of Veblen. Weber cited Veblen, and Weber's own view of status 
symbols concurs with those of Spencer and Veblen: 
The development of status is essentially a question of stratification resting upon 
usurpation. Such usurpation is the normal origin of almost all status honours. (Weber, 
1946, p. 188) 
Although achievement has become a major topic in social psychology (Brown, 1965), with 
continuing ramifications into research on risk-taking, on attributions of success, and on self 
concepts (Heckhausen, Schmalt & Schneider, 1985), the role of property as a symbol of 
achievement has appeared in few studies. For example, Jackson, Ahmed & Heapy (1976) 
surmised that achievement motivation consisted of acquisitiveness, status with experts, status 
with peers, achievement via independence, and competitiveness. They examined these by 
self-rating, person description, internation simulation, adjective checklist, and personality 
inventory. They found that acquisitiveness was without relationship to status with experts and 
was mildly positively correlated with status with peers, giving some support to Veblen’s theory. 
Other evidence of the relationship appears in McClelland’s (1975) book, Power. He reported 
significant positive correlations between prestige possessions and the need for power. 
McClelland (1975) described four power orientations, which he likened to developmental stages: 
1) dependency on others’ control (support), 2) self-control (autonomy), 3) controlling others 
(assertion), and 4) yielding to control by a higher authority (togetherness). According to 
McClelland (1975), self-definition through the possession and control of prestige property would 
be a characteristic of stage 2, and attempting to dominate people by altruistic acts would be 
characteristic of stage 3. 
The second tradition of discussion on the symbolic functions of possessions is that of 
popular literature. Many nineteenth and twentieth century novelists developed the theme that 
property serves a communicative role in social relations, usually that of establishing or 
displaying high social status. Depictions of characters using their possessions as symbols of 
status can be found in Austen’s (1813/1926) Pride and Prejudice, Dickens’ (1865) Our Mutual 
Friend, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's (1925) The Great Gatsby, to name a few. Although it is not usual

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