• August 5th, 2020

Keeping up with the Joneses: A Namibian perspective

Namibia celebrated 29 years of independence, which has brought human development, infrastructural development, social upliftment, amongst others. However, with the advent of globalisation, how drastically are Namibians coping with the aspect of consumerism which is mostly ignored by the masses yet visible for all to see. This phenomenon is referred to as “conspicuous consumption” or better known as “Keeping up with the Joneses”.  The phrase was created by Arthur Momand in 1913 in his comic strip ‘Keeping up the Joneses’, which depicted the social status of one family who struggled to keep up with their neighbours; and that phrase remains popular till this day. One of the theories of consumption, the Relative Income Hypothesis, popularised by James Duensenberry, assumes that strong tendencies exist in our society for people to emulate their neighbours and strive towards a higher standard of living. 

How many of us imitate our neighbours? A neighbour in this analogy can be anyone; a friend, a family member, a public figure, a colleague, and the list goes on. For a small population like Namibia it is quite saddening to see a person buying something they do not need just because it is worn by X-person; even though this consumption was not budgeted for. So who do we lay the blame on? TV? Social media? It is hard to come to terms seeing your neighbour driving a new Mercedes Benz C63, wearing a new Versace shirt while you are driving a Dankie Botswana and donning an Identity shirt. Today’s society is mirrored by demonstration effect, which is not   psychologically easy to shake off, hence we can agree that Duensenberry’s assumption was right all along. How many of us buy cars, clothes, cellphones or decide to rent in a certain suburb just because of other people’s influence. I remember in my high school days as a teenager craving for All Stars, Dickies, a playstation, DStv but my parents couldn’t provide me. I felt empty without such items, due to the fact that at that time it felt like acquiring All Stars was like winning a million dollars. I may not have been the only teenager of my era feeling that way. Though I am over that, I have a feeling that this conspicuous consumption effect is still present and alive in our midst; there’s a need to address this behaviour among our friends, families and the country at large. It is viable to save money for needs that have a long-term return to ourselves, kids, friends and the country at large. Decisions which are rushed lead to a lot of ills, debt accumulation, peer pressure; stress are some of the notable problems which are evident in our streets, neighbourhoods and at work. Addressing the problem associated with Keeping up with the Joneses involve being realistic ourselves, managing our finances, investing in activities that really bear results, hosting seminars on how we should manage our consumption as Namibians so that we can adjust and breathe easily, especially in a crippled economy that is affecting Namibia at present.

• Gebhard Lucky Natsootweya Shigwedha holds a B.Tech Economics  degree, Polytechnic of Namibia, National Certificate in Public Management (Polytechnic of Namibia) and MA Economics from Osmania University (OU, Arts College), India.  

Staff Reporter
2019-08-23 07:57:41 | 11 months ago

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