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Vice of Luxury: Economic Excess in a Consumer Age

by David Cloutier Georgetown Univ Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 336 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$73.91
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Luxury. The word alone conjures up visions of attractive, desirable lifestyle choices, yet it also faces criticism as a moral vice harmful to both the self and society. Engaging with ideas from business, marketing, and economics,The Vice of Luxury takes on the challenging task of naming how much is too much in today's consumer-oriented society.

David Cloutier's critique goes to the heart of a fundamental contradiction. Though overconsumption and materialism make us uneasy, they also seem inevitable in advanced economies. Current studies of economic ethics focus on the structural problems of poverty, of international trade, of workers' rights -- but rarely, if ever, do such studies speak directly to the excesses of the wealthy, including the middle classes of advanced economies. Cloutier proposes a new approach to economic ethics that focuses attention on our everyday economic choices. He shows why luxury is a problem, explains how to identify what counts as the vice of luxury today, and develops an ethic of consumption that is grounded in Christian moral convictions.

Introduction: Why Luxury? Part One 1. Luxury in History: A Brief Survey 2. Neglected Vice: How Luxury Degrades Us, Our Work, and Our Communities 3. Neglected Sacramentality: Why Luxury Blocks a Spirituality of our Material Goods 4. Neglecting Positionality: Why Luxury Does Not Necessarily Help the Economy Part Two 5. Luxury Defined 6. Luxury and Social Context: Who Has More Than Enough? 7. Luxury and Necessity: What is Enough? 8. Luxury and Sacrament: What's Beyond Enough? Conclusion: Resisting with Discipline, Responding with Hope Bibliography Index

'David Cloutier's insightful treatment of luxury is creative and prophetic, without the oversimplifications prevalent in much prophetic discourse today. Drawing on philosophy, economics, and theology, he traces the history of ideas about luxury in a manner both scholarly and accessible to a wide audience. A truly excellent volume that will challenge how most of us think about our own lives.'
- Daniel Rush Finn, professor of theology and Clemens Professor of Economics, St. John's University
David Cloutier is associate professor at Mount Saint Mary's University. He is the author of Love, Reason, and God's Story: An Introduction to Catholic Sexual Ethics and editor of the blog