Political Elites and Conspicuous Modesty: Norway, Sweden, Finland in Comparative Perspective

Comparative Studies of Social and Political Elites

ISBN: 978-0-76231-379-2, eISBN: 978-1-84950-466-9

ISSN: 0195-6310

Publication date: 11 December 2006


All sorts of distinctions can be made concerning prestige goods: for instance, between the most durable like precious stones passed down from generation to generation and the ephemeral ones, or between those which seem to exert a universal fascination, like gold and others valued only in some places. The question of borrowings and possible syncretism is also most appealing for the comparatist and countless illustrations could be given here. In many cases, prestigious goods must be studied by taking both their symbolic and practical value into consideration. What I mean is that a ‘Veblenesque’ approach only paying attention to them as status symbols tends to underestimate their functional dimension. For example, limousines or jets must certainly be analyzed in terms of attributes of power and status enhancement. However, one cannot deny that they also have concrete functions of ‘comfortableness’ and rapidity for ubiquitous elites bound to do extensive traveling. Normally, in modern democracies, top political actors inherit or acquire all kinds of prestigious public assets, but these must be returned at the end of their mandate. Even presents officially given to them are supposed to be surrendered to a public museum. The famous affair of Emperor Bokassa's diamonds offered to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing no doubt discredited the French President and contributed to his defeat in the 1981 elections.


Daloz, J. (2006), "Political Elites and Conspicuous Modesty: Norway, Sweden, Finland in Comparative Perspective", Engelstad, F. and Gulbrandsen, T. (Ed.) Comparative Studies of Social and Political Elites (Comparative Social Research, Vol. 23), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 171-210. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0195-6310(06)23008-4

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