Feasting in a time of famine: The English Premier League, ‘conspicuous consumption’ and the politics of austerity

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Abstract

Since 2010, successive Conservative-led governments have imposed a series of austerity measures in an attempt to curb levels of public spending and bring Britain’s national deficit back ‘under control’. Despite this political imperative, however, there remains within certain areas of economic and social life, a persistence of what Thorstein Veblen famously termed ‘conspicuous consumption’. The English Premier League is, I argue here, one such example, and this article offers a reworking of Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class to explore some of the ways in which England’s elite football clubs have continued to demonstrate a ‘propensity for emulation’ and ‘conspicuous consumption’, specifically, by spending considerable sums acquiring new players and redeveloping their stadiums. Under these conditions of public austerity, the private wealth of English football’s global leisure class has soared, leaving these clubs disembedded from their predominately working-class neighbourhoods, and the self-same communities that have borne the brunt of these government cuts and welfare reforms. Precarity, economic anxiety and acute social vulnerability are now everyday experiences for those living in the shadows of England’s wealthiest clubs. Politically too, however, this is also significant since the sealing-off of this leisure class reveals the limits of austerity itself. Exposing it as an ideological choice rather than ‘economic necessity’, these class relations demonstrate in stark terms that ‘we’ as a nation – let alone ‘a football nation’ – are not ‘all in this together’. Cut adrift from the clubs that they historically sustained, these communities have been left to navigate this latest crisis of capitalism alone.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2018

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