The new status symbol: it’s not what you spend – it’s how hard you work

24. April 2017

Date: 24-04-2017
Source: The Guardian

The rich used to show how much they could spend on things they didn’t need. Today, a public display of productivity is the new symbol of class power

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he starts each day at 3.45am, while Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had talked about her 130-hour workweek.

Almost 120 years ago, during the first Gilded Age, sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption”. He used it to refer to rich people flaunting their wealth through wasteful spending. Why buy a thousand-dollar suit when a hundred-dollar one serves the same function? The answer, Veblen said, was power. The rich asserted their dominance by showing how much money they could burn on things they didn’t need.

While radical at the time, Veblen’s observation seems obvious now. In the intervening decades, conspicuous consumption has become deeply embedded in the texture of American capitalism. Our new Gilded Age is even more Veblenian than the last. Today’s captains of industry publicize their social position with private islands and superyachts while the president of the United States covers nearly everything he owns in gold. Read the rest of this entry »

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Transformation at Yahoo Foiled by Its Leader’s Inability to Bet the Farm

3. December 2015

Date: 03-12-2015
Source: The New York Times

alibaba cc campusThe Alibaba Group campus in Hangzhou, China. Planning a spinoff of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba has consumed much of Marissa Mayer’s tenure.

It’s not a big surprise that Marissa Mayer has failed to resurrect Yahoo. When the
celebrated Google executive took over the web’s most iconic basket case in 2012, the odds were stacked against her. Turning around any company is difficult; turning around a tech company is nearly unheard-of. There’s just one example everyone can think of — Apple — but that effort took nearly a decade to show results, and anyway, if your requirement for success is to be like Steve Jobs, good luck to you.

So the fact that Yahoo’s board is now considering a sale of the company’s web business — after months of pressure from activist shareholders and a mass defection of executives that has left morale spiraling — is hardly a shock. The hearse has been heading down the 101 freeway to Yahoo’s sunny headquarters for years. Now it’s pulling into the parking lot, and Ms. Mayer just happens to be the chief executive who will greet it. Read the rest of this entry »