This article investigates the moral acceptability of contemporary luxury. The meaning of luxury and its manifestations in today’s economically developed countries are explored. The nature of morality is considered, and the evolving moral standing of luxury from the classical period to modern times is reviewed. Based on an elaboration of the significant positive and negative consequences of the production and consumption of luxuries, the moral standing of contemporary luxury and the questions it raises for the super-rich are discussed. The author argues that the moral standing of contemporary luxury is dependent on the social and economic context within which it is situated. This is because the meaning of both luxury and morality vary according to social context. Further, where luxury divides and stimulates degenerate, unethical, and criminal activities, it is morally indefensible; but where luxury unites community and advances human endeavor, it can be defended on moral grounds. However, in the contemporary period, growing economic inequality is increasingly overshadowing any positive moral impact of luxury.
IS CONTEMPORARY LUXURY MORALLY ACCEPTABLE?: A Question for the Super-Rich
Joanne Roberts is professor of arts and cultural management and director of the Winchester Luxury Research Group at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. Her research interests include knowledge, innovation, creativity, and luxury. She is the coeditor, with John Armitage, of Critical Luxury Studies: Art, Design, Media (2016).
Joanne Roberts; IS CONTEMPORARY LUXURY MORALLY ACCEPTABLE?: A Question for the Super-Rich. Cultural Politics 1 March 2019; 15 (1): 48–63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7289486
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