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Veblen and the Theory of the Backpacker Leisure Class: Status Seeking and Emulation in the Australian Contemporary Tourist Economy

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In 1899 Thorstein Veblen wrote a seminal monograph on the subject of consumption and leisure. His work, The Theory of the Leisure Class, is one of the most enduring examples of status-seeking individuals' conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure practices, particularly when applied to the tourist industry, and furthermore, is still relevant in today's economic climate. This article develops an independent theory of backpackers and how they can be perceived as undertaking conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure practices. This is done using Veblen's work as a foundation. Qualitative methods using in-depth interviews and participant observation techniques are employed to obtain data from 41 participants. The findings serve to highlight the fact that Veblen's thesis is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1899.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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  • Tourism Review International is a peer-reviewed journal that advances excellence in all fields of tourism research, promotes high-level tourism knowledge, and nourishes cultural awareness in all sectors of the tourism industry by integrating industry and academic perspectives. Its international and interdisciplinary nature ensures that the needs of those interested in tourism are served by documenting industry practices, discussing tourism management and planning issues, providing a forum for primary research and critical examinations of previous research, and by chronicling changing tourism patterns and trends at the local, regional and global scale.
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