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The Theory Of The Leisure Class [ By: Thorstein Veblen ]

The Theory Of The Leisure Class [ By: Thorstein Veblen ]
  • #: 247254
  • Price: $0.99 In Apple Store
  • Category: Books
  • Updated: 2010-10-18
  • Current Version: 1.0
  • 1.0
  • Size: 3.90 MB
  • Language: English
  • Seller: Publish This, LLC
  • Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later
  • © 2010 Publish This, LLC
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About the Book

The Theory of the Leisure Class [1899]

This classic of economic thought is a scathing critique of American snobbery and wastefulness. Chief among the practices that Veblen so wittily satirizes is 'conspicuous consumption', a pattern of behaviour that still flourishes among us.

In the book, Veblen argues that economic life is driven not by notions of utility, but by social vestiges from pre-historic times. Drawing examples from the contemporary period and anthropology, he held that much of today's society is a variation on early tribal life.

According to Veblen, beginning with primitive tribes, people began to adopt a division of labor along certain lines. The "higher status" group monopolized war and hunting, while farming and cooking were considered inferior work.

He argued this was due to barbarism and conquest of some tribes over others. Once conquerors took control, they relegated the more menial and labor-intensive jobs to the subjugated people, while retaining the more warlike and violent work for themselves. It did not matter that these "menial" jobs did more to support society (in Veblen's view) than the "higher" ones. Even within tribes that were initially free of conquerors or violence, Veblen argued that certain individuals, upon watching this labor division take place in other groups, began to emulate the behavior in higher-status groups.

Veblen referred to the emerging ruling class as the "leisure class." He argued that while this class did perform some work and contributed to the tribe's well-being, it did so in only a minor, peripheral, and largely symbolic manner. For example, although hunting could provide the tribe with food, it was not as productive or reliable as farming or animal domestication, and compared with the latter types of work, was relatively easier to perform. Likewise, while tribes occasionally required warriors if a conflict broke out, Veblen argued that militaristic members of the leisure class retained their position—and, with it, exemption from menial work—even during the extremely long stretches of time when there was no war, even though they were perfectly capable of contributing to the tribe's "menial" work during times of peace.

About the Author

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Bunde Veblen, born Tosten Bunde Veblen (July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American sociologist and economist and a primary mentor, along with John R. Commons, 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 (1899).

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 (1899), arguing there was a basic distinction between the productiveness of "industry, " run by engineers, which manufactures goods, and the parasitism of "business, " which 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 therefore made inefficient and corrupt by the businessmen, though he never made that claim explicit. Veblen believed that technological advances were the driving force behind cultural change, but, unlike many contemporaries, he refused to connect change with progress.

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