Historical Social Research

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Jean-Pascal Daloz, Elite (Un)Conspicuousness: Theoretical Reflections on Ostentation vs. Understatement [Abstract]

Comparative research suggests that in some settings the conspicuous flaunting of one’s assets is expected, while “unconspicuousness” is likely to be interpreted in terms of diffidence or lack of wherewithal. Conversely, in other contexts, distinction may require studied understatement, and an excessive concern with display of rank would eventually undermine one’s reputation. Yet, social theorists have often tended to see only one side of the coin. The purpose of this article is to highlight complexity and propose various hypotheses for dealing with significant variations in elite behaviour, with a view to developing non-dogmatic interpretations of the logics underpinning conspicuousness and unconspicuousness.