The Leisure Class

Topics: Conspicuous consumption, Karl Marx, Sociology Pages: 4 (1167 words) Published: March 7, 2011
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, pecuniary emulation and conspicuous leisure, Veblen is basically doing a demand and supply analysis of the classes of society. He looks at the consumption patterns of the upper class because this affects the rest of society through the mechanism of emulation.

Pecuniary Emulation
Veblen claims that the pecuniary struggle is the driving force behind the development of culture and society. Pecuniary emulation or, put simply, “keeping up the Jones.” is the notion that once we have all the things we need to survive, we begin to consume products not just to sustain our being, but also to emulate others, those whose earnings are beyond us. By employing an evolutionary analysis he is able to show a distant pattern that can still be seen today. He showed, for example, how the "conspicuous consumption," "conspicuous emulation" and "conspicuous waste" practiced by the leisure class has left society with negative values, broadly setting "predatory" exploit over and above "productive" workmanship. (

Pecuniary Standard of Living It is the community that decides the standard of consumption that it feels is honorable. Once the standard of living is determined, it is difficult to change. Changing habits is a slow...
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