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The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

by Thorstein Veblen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,236246,916 (3.84)32
Business. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Considered the first in-depth critique of consumerism, economist Thorstein Veblen's 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class has come to be regarded as one of the great works of economic theory. Using contemporary and anthropological accounts, Veblen held that our economic and social norms are driven by traces of our early tribal life, rather than ideas of utility.

.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier by Stefan Klein (mercure)
    mercure: Mr. Veblen's book is over 100 years old. Mr. Klein's book dedicates some chapters on the effect of money and income distribution in our time. Plus he has footnotes!
  2. 00
    The Sociology of Taste by Jukka Gronow (SandraArdnas)
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» See also 32 mentions

English (20)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
A not entirely wasteful read. ( )
  saltr | Feb 15, 2023 |
Professor Veblen’s book, first published in 1899 is a sharp critique of the wealth elite of the Gilded Age. In abstract academic prose, which drips with sarcastic venom, he describes the wealthy as a holdover from humanity’s barbaric past. He uses few examples to back up his theory, relying on the common knowledge of his contemporary readers, but when he does it’s truly enlightening.

For example, in his chapter on “Modern Survivals of Prowess” he uses the example of an upper-class gentleman who carries a walking stick for show, and not as an aid to waking.

The walking-stick serves the purpose of an advertisement that the bearer’s hands are employed otherwise than in useful effort, and it therefore has utility as an evidence of leisure. But it is also a weapon, and it meets a felt need of barbarian man on that ground. The handling of so tangible and primitive a means of offense is very comforting to any one who is gifted with even a moderate share of ferocity. –pages 172-173 (in this edition)

He goes on to explain why this mindset, although it may be economically useful to the individual, is detrimental to the general population as a whole.

The two barbarian traits, ferocity and astuteness, go to make up the predaceous temper or spiritual attitude. They are the expressions of a narrowly self-regarding habit of mind. Both are highly serviceable for individual expediency in a life looking for invidious success. Both also have a high aesthetic value. Both are fostered by the pecuniary culture. But both alike are of no use for the purpose of the collective life. Page 179

In addition to the wealthy, he also eviscerates “conspicuous consumption,” athletics, religion, luck, and forms of higher education which have no practical application. As a result, his dry, droll prose, even if the reader does not agree with him, is hilarious to read, or to others infuriating. I loved it. ( )
  MaowangVater | Jul 13, 2021 |
From 1899, a prescient classic in economics and sociology and an easy and enjoyable read. Skip Chapter 8. Veblen's work is cited by feminist economists and major American authors. His core argument is that conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure are used by rich and poor alike as ways to improve their social status. Expensive clothes and weddings show that we have money; neckties show that we don't deign to perform manual labor; they would get caught in the gears. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Veblen was a Norwegian American writing this around early 1900's.

I came across this book after reading Adam Smith. Veblen is focused mostly on the social ladder, conspicuous leisure, consumption.

He takes a darwinian approach to social evolution in society. I learnt new words like occidental, which means Western. I would recommend this book only if you want to know about society from an evolutionary perspective.

--Deus Vult
Gottfried
( )
  gottfried_leibniz | Oct 4, 2019 |
Overambitious, arrogant, almost offensively Darwinian in its discussion of institutions, but nonetheless insightful and fun. (lol Veblen) ( )
  sashame | Dec 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thorstein Veblenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adorno, Theodor W.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aron, RaymondForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arppe, Tiina(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Évrard, LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Banta, MarthaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mills, C. WrightIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riukulehto, Sulevi(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright Mills, C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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PREFACE

It is the purpose of this inquiry to discuss the place and value of the leisure class as an economic factor in modern life, but it has been found impracticable to confine the discussion strictly within the limits
so marked out. Some attention is perforce given to the origin and the line of derivation of the institution, as well as to features of social life that are not commonly classed as economic.
CHAPTER I: Introductory

The institution of a leisure class is found in its best development at the higher stages of the barbarian culture; as, for instance, in feudal Europe or feudal Japan. In such communities the distinction between
classes is very rigorously observed; and the feature of most striking economic significance in these class differences is the distinction maintained between the employments proper to the several classes.
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Business. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Considered the first in-depth critique of consumerism, economist Thorstein Veblen's 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class has come to be regarded as one of the great works of economic theory. Using contemporary and anthropological accounts, Veblen held that our economic and social norms are driven by traces of our early tribal life, rather than ideas of utility.

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