What and how people consume are critical components of how individuals define themselves in relation to others. Yet, consumption practices are also meaningful social signals that individuals use to categorize and evaluate others. As such, consumption is not only a basis but also a marker of social identity that can serve as a powerful source of social differentiation and stratification in interaction. Research on social distinction focuses on analyzing two primary issues: (1) how individuals define and interpret the social, cultural, and/or material value of individuals, objects, and organizations; and (2) how such classification schemes—including those based on consumption—contribute to broader systems of social inequality. This entry reviews key authors and works relevant to the study of social distinction, highlights key debates pertinent to ...

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