Organized by Catherine Kovesi
This two-day conference aims to unravel the complex interaction of competing paradigms at the origins of modern consumption practices, and explore how those paradigms evolved as they continued to inform global cultures to the present day. Excessive consumption and the ethics of greed are burning topics in contemporary society. Indeed a key feature of contemporary global culture is a ceaseless, complex and ambivalent discourse about materialism, consumption and luxury. These discourses have a long history. Indeed the phenomenon of luxury and the ethical dilemmas it raised appeared, for the first time since antiquity, in Renaissance Italy. In this period and place, luxury emerged as a core idea in the conceptualization of consumption. Simultaneously, greed, manifested in new, unrestrained consumption practices, came under close ethical scrutiny. Similar debates soon emerged in Ming China with the twin concepts of schechi and shemi. As the buying power of new classes gained pace around the world, the conceptualization of luxury and greed underwent continual refinement. Both the approach to the material and the arguments raised by the participants in this conference will provide a new appraisal and vision of luxury and the ethics of greed from Renaissance Italy to Ming China, and beyond.
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