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The logic of practice - understanding the Chinese newly rich consumers' status consumption in luxury fashion clothes.

Zhang, Wei


Wei Zhang


Seonaidh McDonald


Chinese newly rich consumers have gained substantial power in the luxury sector through their conspicuous consumption. Chinese consumers lack of cultural capital and inexperience in the purchase and use of material commodities in the luxury consumption field has led many to associate their conspicuous consumption with pecuniary display of their newly acquired economic capital. Scholars have either used cultural globalisation theory to suggest that the Chinese consumers are embracing and emulating Western material culture, or have used Chinese face theory to explain their conspicuous consumption in terms of the social norms associated with Chinese family kinship and peer group pressure. This study attempts to look beyond both these assumptions, and for the first time seek a detailed and holistic understanding of Chinese newly rich consumers status consumption practices, particularly the relationships between personal taste and the social structure and cultural forces shaping individual taste in the consumption field struggle. Hence, the research question is What status consumption practices do Chinese newly rich consumers engage in to compete for social distinction through luxury fashion consumption? Bourdieus field analysis has been undertaken in order to enable a new understanding of Chinese newly rich consumers luxury consumption practices. The key concepts; cultural capital, habitus, and fields (Doxa and Illusio), have been discussed with respect to Chinese social conditions. Using luxury fashion as a potent example of conspicuous consumption, a qualitative study has been conducted among ten carefully selected Chinese newly rich consumers (Generation 1) residents of Beijing. Data analysis has shown that informants used two distinctive status consumption practices, namely, the materialist status consumption practice, and the cultural idealist status consumption practice (Holt, 1998), which are aligned with their social trajectory route, volume and the composition of their cultural capital. Informants cultural idealist status consumption practice indicated two important forms of cultural capital as social distinction: embodied cultural capital and deterritorialized cultural capital (Üstüner & Holt, 2010). The embodied cultural capital has been accrued through early socialization, centered on intellectual cultivation and nonmaterialistic daily lives, whereas the deterritorialized cultural capital has been accrued in a similar fashion to their Turkish high cultural capital (HCC) counterparts (Üstüner & Holt, 2010), through engagement with the West, despite only having this contact during adulthood, unlike the Turkish HCC. These two forms of cultural capital are centered on non-materialistic aesthetic driven consumption practices, which are similar to Bourdieus (1984) and Holts (1998) HCC consumers cultural idealist consumption practices. Thus, the thesis answers calls for more detailed analyses of consumption practices in Less Industrialised Countries. In doing so it both confirms the suitability of Bourdieu for the study of consumption practices in an Eastern context and provides new insights into the Chinese newly rich groups consumption practices in the field of luxury fashion.


ZHANG, W. 2017. The logic of practice - understanding the Chinese newly rich consumers' status consumption in luxury fashion clothes. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Aug 1, 2017
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 12, 2018
Keywords Chinese; Consumers; Newly rich; Luxury sector; Western material culture
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