Essay on The Leisure Class

1176 Words Feb 19th, 2011 5 Pages
Felicia Henry-Nailon
Veblen, Thorstein. (1899). The Theory of The Leisure Class. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Authors Purpose

Thorstein Veblen initiated a new approach to economic theory that took account of evolving social and institutional contexts and considered their human implications. In his examination of the leisure class, he looks at non-economic features of their social life. In this economic analysis he probes the beginning of time and travels down through history to discover the origin of the leisure class.

Specific Areas to Be Covered

Veblen examines the demand and consumption of the upper classes of society in terms that are not traditionally used in economics. In using terms such as conspicuous consumption,
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The standards are determined by conspicuous waste and workmanship. These and the predatory animus shape the standard of life. (Veblen: 105) The wider the distance between the classes and the slower the degree of class mobility, the slower the process of change. The standards are determined by conspicuous waste and workmanship.

Conspicuous Consumption
Veblen notes that the common element of conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption is waste. Conspicuous leisure represents a waste of time and effort, whereas conspicuous consumption represents a waste of goods. Both are methods of demonstrating the possession of wealth and the two are usually accepted as the same. There are at least two conceptions of conspicuous consumption in the “The Theory of the Leisure Class," these are:

(1) Conspicuous consumption characterized by particular end-results or as a function.

(2) Conspicuous consumption as intention, motive, or instinct.

Thorsten Veblen’s conspicuous consumption stems from the division of wealth that was infinitely more obvious a hundred years ago when the divide between the haves and have-nots was easier to establish though the divide is in actuality even wider today. Thorsten Veblen’s conspicuous consumption grew from pecuniary emulation.

In order to gain and to hold the esteem of people it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth most be evident because esteem is only awarded on evidence.