When did a workaholic lifestyle become a sign of status?

 Charles Dickens would find himself in an alien world if he witnessed modern life. The wealthier are working harder than the poorer.

 Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, should know. Along with Georgetown’s Neeru Paharia and Harvard’s Anat Keinan, Bellezza co-wrote a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research about a rare status symbol: seeming busy.

The roles have obviously switched since the late Industrial Revolution. On average, the richest American men, on average, work more than those poorer. In The Theory of the Leisure Class, economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote in 1899 that “conspicuous abstention from labor … becomes the conventional mark of superior pecuniary achievement.”

That we are all aware of this explains why we take a while to respond to messages on social media. Also, that we may not answer the phone right away. And if or when we do, we are short and to the point.

But Bellezza also observes that this is mostly an American phenomenon. Vacations, which for Italians are as sacred as loving your own mother, are still a sign of status in Italy. The longer they are, usually the richer you are supposed to be, at least on the other side of the pond.

 

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