Becoming consumers : looking beyond wealth as an explanation for villa variability : perspectives from the East of England
This thesis provides a comprehensive study of the social and psychological
characteristics of modem consumer behaviour that is then used as an interpretative
perspective with which to consider the evidence for a selection of villas in Roman
Existing explanations for the development and aggrandizement of these
country properties of the elite are contextualised and the commonly-applied
hypothesis of conspicuous consumption is critiqued. A quantifiable `costing' model
is introduced and consumer theories are summarised against a background of Roman
archaeology. The consumer approach allows us to get closer to the decision-making
of the individual and the determinants that can influence personal choice are
Case-studieasr e offered that rigorouslye xaminea rangeo f apparentlys tatusenhancing
amenities on villas within a framework that focuses on specific
consumption arguments. This process serves to question existing orthodoxies.
Important and under-appreciated contexts in which social identity could be expressed
were the Roman roads that passed close to villas, and this suggestion is explored.
A wider outcome of the burgeoning desire to consume in elite society may
have been psychological change. It is possible that ingroup values evolved from
being collectivist to become more individualistic in nature, and also that the selfhood
of generations of owners gradually changed over time to be characterised as less
interdependent and more independent. If so, this allows the proposal to be made that
villas may in future be classified additionally in terms of psychic and not just
architectural structure. To help gauge the potential of such arguments the author
entered into an introductory collaboration with specialists across the social sciences.