The most sophisticated way of establishing rank order so far devised by humans is by means of wealth, in all its manifestations. To be sure, there are many other activities endeavoured by mankind such as warfare, politics, organised religion, bureaucracy, sport, artistic fame, entertainment, and even who wears the trousers in marriage but the quest for wealth has the most potential for either widespread prosperity or disaster. Humans have even dedicated an entire discipline to the study of the origin and interaction of wealth and abundance with their opposites, poverty and scarcity: the Science of Economics.
Economics, therefore, is best studied by watching what happens to wealth. And the economic discipline best suited to watch wealth, in Capitalism, is that where wealth is primarily created and consumed on a daily basis: Real Estate. This is so, because real estate location and selection - particularly when it comes to residential units - are the main social markers of status. Real Estate is more important, far more important for establishing rank within society than the other competing field where wealth is created and consumed: the Stock Market. One can own the largest single package of IBM's shares, and still the impact on his peers will not be as dramatic as the one of living ostentatiously in a multi-million dollar mansion.
Moreover it can be added that although establishing rank order by means of wealth manifestations is common to all societies everywhere on the planet, in North America specifically this peculiarity unique to the human progeny has taken a somewhat overzealous connotation, by combining the twin concepts of the saga of the self-made man or woman and the fantasy of home ownership. America's love affair with houses is the principal indicator of our cultural idolatries.
This concept is indeed fully and clearly conceptualized by Prof. Marjorie Garber, the Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, in her book entitled Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses. From the opening paragraph her thesis is clear: real estate has become a relational substitute in the lives of many Americans. She begins, "What do college students talk about with their roommates? Sex. Twenty years later, what do they talk about with their friends and associates? Real estate. And with the same gleam in the eyes. Real estate today has become a form of yuppie pornography".
The connection between sex and real estate, two fields otherwise light-years apart, is made to the extent that they both serve and satisfy status rank to its best fulfillment through wealth. This is indicated and summarized by a somewhat blunt quotation of Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping magnate who married two of the most famous women in the modern world - Maria Callas, the opera diva, and Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of US President John F. Kennedy - who died in 1975, when he said "There is no point in being rich unless you can have sex with beautiful women." So when we are talking about the male urge for status rank, or the female urge for a dependable partner who will give her financial security and good progeny, we are really talking about two facets of the same concept: wealth. On the other hand, as humans tend to equate values, when it comes to housing and real estate, the equation is:
achievement + independence + comfort + prosperity + accomplishment + success = wealth
There is so much money around, and buyers want to flaunt it. They will swear and they will protest and say they do not want to show off, but they do. They want a house that makes a clear, undeniable statement that ‘I am rich', ‘I have prosperity' and ‘I have style'. Architectural styles of new constructions are changing and evolving, with the ever increasing round looks of exteriors that reflect feminine sensuality and the use of glazed windows and conspicuous steel beams - male machismo at its best. On the inside, the skillful blend of colors, woods and design elements promotes feminine harmony, warmth and balance with char green, sand, white, red, black, dark brown and all colors of nature at the top of the line whereas, if contemplating a hardwood floor, mahogany is the wood of choice since it enriches the environment by rendering a sense of abundance, and slate flooring and polished concrete walls help create a natural masculine feeling, especially if combined and contrasted with the glacial looks of stainless steel appliances.
The link between sex and real estate is the catalyst to emotional engagement, as important in our social interactions of status and rank as it is in our manifestations of wealth.