THE THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS by THORSTEIN VEBLEN [Special Anniversary Edition for NOOK] The Classic Bestselling Critique of Capitalist Society and Conspicuous Consumption Inspiration for OCCUPY MOVEMENT and OCCUPY WALL STREET Protesters [NOOK Book]
THE THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS by THORSTEIN VEBLEN
[Special Anniversary Edition for NOOK]
The Classic Bestselling Critique of Capitalist Society and Conspicuous Consumption | Inspiration for Occupy Movement and Occupy Wall Street Protesters
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions is an economic treatise and detailed social critique of conspicuous consumption, as a function of social-class consumerism, which proposes that the social strata and the division of labor of the feudal period continued into the modern era. The lords of the manor employed themselves in the economically useless practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, whilst the middle and lower classes were employed in the industrial occupations that support the whole of society; economically wasteful activities are those activities that do not contribute to the economy or to the material productivity required for the fruitful functioning of society. Veblen’s analyses of business cycles and prices, and of the emergent technocratic division of labor by speciality (scientists, engineers, technologists) at the beginning of the 20th century proved to be accurate predictions of the nature of an industrial society.
The concept of conspicuous consumption has been applied to advertising, and to explain why poorer classes have been unable to advance economically. Veblen's views on the uselessness of "businessmen", while usually discarded, have been adopted by Warren Buffett, who has criticized the growth of practices such as day trading and arbitrage which make money solely through abstract means, with no value being added.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One: Introductory
Chapter Two: Pecuniary Emulation
Chapter Three: Conspicuous Leisure
Chapter Four: Conspicuous Consumption
Chapter Five: The Pecuniary Standard of Living
Chapter Six: Pecuniary Canons of Taste
Chapter Seven: Dress as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture
Chapter Eight: Industrial Exemption and Conservatism
Chapter Nine: The Conservation of Archaic Traits
Chapter Ten: Modern Survivals of Prowess
Chapter Eleven: The Belief in Luck
Chapter Twelve: Devout Observances
Chapter Thirteen: Survivals of the Non-Invidious Interests
Chapter Fourteen: The Higher Learning as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture
"In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence. And not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of his importance alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's self-complacency. In all but the lowest stages of culture the normally constituted man is comforted and upheld in his self-respect by "decent surroundings" and by exemption from "menial offices". Enforced departure from his habitual standard of decency, either in the paraphernalia of life or in the kind and amount of his everyday activity, is felt to be a slight upon his human dignity, even apart from all conscious consideration of the approval or disapproval of his fellows.
The archaic theoretical distinction between the base and the honourable in the manner of a man's life retains very much of its ancient force even today. So much so that there are few of the better class who are not possessed of an instinctive repugnance for the vulgar forms of labour. We have a realising sense of ceremonial uncleanness attaching in an especial degree to the occupations which are associated in our habits of thought with menial service. It is felt by all persons of refined taste that a spiritual contamination is inseparable from certain offices that are conventionally required of servants. Vulgar surroundings, mean (that is to say, inexpensive) habitations, and vulgarly productive occupations are unhesitatingly condemned and avoided. They are incompatible with life on a satisfactory spiritual plane __ with "high thinking". From the days of the Greek philosophers to the present, a degree of leisure and of exemption from contact with such industrial processes as serve the immediate everyday purposes of human life has ever been recognised by thoughtful men as a prerequisite to a worthy or beautiful, or even a blameless, human life. In itself and in its consequences the life of leisure is beautiful and ennobling in all civilised men's eyes.
This direct, subjective value of leisure and of other evidences of wealth is no doubt in great part secondary and derivative. It is in part a reflex of the utility of leisure as a means of gaining the respect of others, and in part it is the result of a mental substitution."
"A marvellous thing and in its own way, a masterpiece of the English language."
C. Wright Mills
Veblen opens up our minds, he gets us “outside the whale,’ he makes us see through the official sham. Above all, he teaches us to be aware of the crackpot basis of the realism of those practical Men of Affairs who would lead us to honorific destruction.
As a child, Veblen was an inveterate inventor of malicious nicknames. As an adult, Veblen developed this aptitude into cutting analogy. In this volume, the most striking categories are four in number: Conspicuous Consumption, Vicarious Consumption, Conspicuous Leisure, and Conspicuous Waste. It is amazing what a very large proportion of social activity, higher education, devout observance, and upper-class consumer goods seemed to fit snugly into one, or another, of these classifications.
Thorstein Bunde Veblen, born Torsten Bunde Veblen, was an American economist and sociologist, and a leader of the institutional economics movement. Besides his technical work he was a popular and witty critic of capitalism, as shown by his best known book The Theory of the Leisure Class.
Veblen is famous in the history of economic thought for combining a Darwinian evolutionary perspective with his new institutionalist approach to economic analysis. He combined sociology with economics in his masterpiece The Theory of the Leisure Class where he argued that there was a basic distinction between the productiveness of "industry", run by engineers manufacturing goods, vis-a-vis the parasitism of "business" that exists only to make profits for a leisure class. The chief activity of the leisure class was "conspicuous consumption", and their economic contribution is "waste," activity that contributes nothing to productivity. The American economy was thereby made inefficient and corrupt by the businessmen, though Veblen never made that claim explicit. He believed that technological advances were the driving force behind cultural change, but, unlike many contemporaries, refused to connect change with progress.
As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, his stress on the wasteful role of consumption for status greatly influenced socialist thinkers and engineers who sought a non-Marxist critique of capitalism.