Luxury moves from the tangible to the immaterial.
Intangible assets that provide welfare are being increasingly appreciated, and time is starting to have the significance it once did.
Before luxury was embodied in fast cars and designer handbags, but our fancy notions have changed radically over the years. Michael Jackel, a sociology professor at the University of Trier, explains that the notion of luxury in Western societies is being redefined, and is shifting from material goods to immaterial securities. Time, health and safety now represent the new luxury. “Our society aspires to things it currently lacks,” says Jackel.
“The importance that we give time has changed and is starting to have the significance it once had. Having time was considered a privilege of the leisure class until, in 70s, this began to change, and those who had time became suspicious. Lack of time in a meritocracy was symbolic of your status. Today we know that it’s detrimental to the quality of life and new compensation models are sought. This explains the growing need for non-material things, when we speak of luxury as an expression,” says the professor.
“In everyday life, we could say that luxury is anything that goes beyond the typical economic possibility. But the term is not adequately defined today. Luxury primarily means the use of high quality products. The debate about whether it’s luxury or waste, is often a matter of the price paid,” says Jackel.
According to Michael Jackel, what makes an object become a luxury depends on the observer and pure comparison. From the buyers perspective, he who can afford such products sees luxury as a manifestation of the precision of a product, be it a car, a watch, or a piece of furniture. This product undergoes a special assessment. For someone who cannot afford this type of product, it is a waste, therefore, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.
Luxury addresses the need to make a distinction and a difference, a social need that is strongly entrenched in many societies. Luxury represents fields of competence, in which you want to prove that you can afford to buy something unusual or extraordinary.
In the Western world, one is what one represents, to do this we use visible goods to make a point, whether a big house, an expensive car and so on. Thus, the state of a person is determined in a social hierarchy. But this kind of thinking in the middle class has been gradually changing; intangible assets that provide welfare are becoming more valued. This new way of thinking ultimately reflects independence from the pressures of modernity.