Economically Dragooned: How the Rich Get the Destitute to Participate in Their Own Impovershment

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Sponsor

Arthur Scarritt


Deregulation of the financial sector has led to economic inequality of unprecedented proportions in the United States. The specific mechanisms for how this plays out in everyday life becomes invisible through the banality of a culture that venerates conspicuous consumption. A perplexing cyclical pattern of destitution develops in which financial instability further amplifies a “keep up with the Joneses” consumer desire in America. This mentality is obscurely capitalized on by corporations by concealing inequitable rent extractions for culturally glorified items. How does America’s consumer culture affect the wealthy classes’ ability to dragoon lower-class individuals into actively participating in their further impoverishment through unscrupulous rent payments, thus exacerbating economic inequality? This strategy of financial dominance on the impecunious by the wealthy elite, is revealed in my current employment with a local rent-to-own company. Through ethnographic analyses, I will explain how this rent-to-own business convinces poor people to pay absurd prices.

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