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The Theory of the Leisure Class (1981)

af Thorstein Veblen

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'Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.'In The Theory of the Leisure Class Thorstein Veblen sets out 'to discuss the place and value of the leisure class as an economic factor in modern life'. In so doing he produced a landmark study of affluent American society that exposes, with brilliant ruthlessness, the habits of production andwaste that link invidious business tactics and barbaric social behaviour. Veblen's analysis of the evolutionary process sees greed as the overriding motive in the modern economy; with an impartial gaze he examines the human cost paid when social institutions exploit the consumption of unessentialgoods for the sake of personal profit. Fashion, beauty, animals, sports, the home, the clergy, scholars - all are assessed for their true usefulness and found wanting. The targets of Veblen's coruscating satire are as evident today as they were a century ago, and his book still has the power toshock and enlighten. Veblen's uncompromising arguments and the influential literary force of his writing are assessed in Martha Banta's Introduction.… (mere)
  1. 10
    The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier af 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 af Jukka Gronow (SandraArdnas)
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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) ( )
  alexanme | Dec 9, 2018 |
If you want to understand American society and can only read one book, this is the book to read. Veblen introduces the concepts of conspicuous consumption, which we all know, but more importantly, he describes what he calls conspicuous leisure which explains everything from wine snobbery, foodie-ism and designer clothes, to elaborate Powerpoint graphics and English butlers. The analysis is trenchant and is as applicable to our new gilded age as it was to the original one in which the book was written. I've read the book several times and each reading produces a new aha moment. ( )
1 stem bearymore | Mar 27, 2018 |
Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class is a "Famous Classic of Economic Thought" according to the front of this fifty year old paperback. It was originally published in America in 1899, and has been in print ever since, as it is indeed a classic, for at least two reasons: Firstly, it is a very insightful work that explains a lot of what initially appear from an economic perspective to be irrational acts. Secondly, it is written in an unusual style that is highly satiric, yet retains no ambiguity in its theoretical points like other ironic works often do. This makes it fairly entertaining in places for such a serious academic work.
Though you might not have heard of this book before (I hadn't, but I'm not an economist), you are likely to be familiar with at least one of the two main concepts that it coins – Conspicuous Consumption, and Conspicuous Leisure. Together these initially appear to be paradoxical in economic terms, however the author provides convincing economic, social and pyschological explanations for their existence, and why they typically manifest in certain forms. These two concepts have great power in explaining scoial behaviour through the ages, and throughout society, not just among the leisure class (though this is where they are most obvious). When viewed with some detatchment, what results from these two diriving forces is often ridiculuous behaviour, of which many historical and modern examples could be provided. As well as the more obviously ridiculous examples (such as fish knives and stretch Limousines), the effect of these forces permeate society right into the mundane and everyday items and conventions that we take for granted. This is not to say that what originated for the reasons of social status, has not persisted for other reasons such as aesthetics, and it is acknowledged here that the purposes of conspicuous consumption and leisure rarely work alone but are often joined by other motivations.
All the essentials of the theory, and its more interesting implications are contained in the first 7 chapters (roughly the first half of the book), while the remainder could largely be skipped as it goes into a lot of trivialities that the reader could infer from what they had read in the first half. Also chapter 9 is largely useless due to its basis on an out-of-date and often wrong understanding of biological inheritance of traits.
Aside from these few complaints this is surely a very important work for economists to read, and probably of large interest to a proportion of the general intellectual readership due to the vast applicability of its therories throughout modern culture. In fact, despite a lot of the theory being based on American society 120 years ago, much of what is said is true in greater degree today than it was then, and not in America alone but across the world. This is easily appreciated by the way recent trends in social media (Facebook, Instagram etc) have amplified the ease, reach and extent of the conspicuoulsy consuming and taking leisure. A modern book on this could hardly better expose the vanity and vacuity of these trends than what is said here, which is huge credit to the insight of Veblen. ( )
1 stem P_S_Patrick | Jun 22, 2017 |
Bueno, muy interesante con la creacion de los conceptos de consumo vicario y consumo ostensible. Algo desactualizado atento los años pasados en cuanto describe algunas características de una sociedad que no existe más ( )
  gneoflavio | Aug 8, 2013 |
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Thorstein Veblenprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Adorno, Theodor W.Efterskriftmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Aron, RaymondForordmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Arppe, Tiina(KÄÄnt.)medforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Évrard, LouisOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Mills, C. WrightIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Riukulehto, Sulevi(KÄÄnt.)medforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Wright Mills, C.Introduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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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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'Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.'In The Theory of the Leisure Class Thorstein Veblen sets out 'to discuss the place and value of the leisure class as an economic factor in modern life'. In so doing he produced a landmark study of affluent American society that exposes, with brilliant ruthlessness, the habits of production andwaste that link invidious business tactics and barbaric social behaviour. Veblen's analysis of the evolutionary process sees greed as the overriding motive in the modern economy; with an impartial gaze he examines the human cost paid when social institutions exploit the consumption of unessentialgoods for the sake of personal profit. Fashion, beauty, animals, sports, the home, the clergy, scholars - all are assessed for their true usefulness and found wanting. The targets of Veblen's coruscating satire are as evident today as they were a century ago, and his book still has the power toshock and enlighten. Veblen's uncompromising arguments and the influential literary force of his writing are assessed in Martha Banta's Introduction.

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