The Church as a Prescriptor of Consumption - An Outline for a Sociology of Luxury

Marian Petcu


The present research is a historical perspective on luxury during 1781-1933. The major stake is represented by the response of the ecclesiastical authority to luxury, the rejection/blaming/damning of luxury; subsequently the acceptance of it. We notice here the church's incapacity to stop the 'illegitim' consumption, that kind of consumption which was beyond the possibilities of a common person, and the taxation of luxury - the one who had more than he/she needed had to donate to the Church, meaning to the poor. The secular authority did the same - luxury would be progressively taxed, which led to a certain synchronization between Church and State. We also analyse the link between orthodoxy and consumption from sociological perspective. The excess is perceived as being a sin. That is why the Church undertakes the role of prescriptor/controller of consumption, be it dressing, food etc. We detect here stages in the process of modernizing of the Romanian cultural space, the social changing and stratification. Luxury was a benchmark in social comparison, a reason of frustration, of indignation, of philosophical reflection. Luxury is a key for understanding the struggle between old and new, between ethics promoted by the Church and that of liberalism, about the tension between traditional consumption (home-made, predictable, swimming with the stream) and the one generated by the circulation of goods, by the industrial revolution.


luxury, church, consumption, curse, commerce, economy, orthodoxy, Romania, social history

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