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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thorstein Veblen and the consumer lifestyle


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) is a famous economist best known for his analysis of leisure and the consumer lifestyle. Economist Robert Heilbroner says,


"No wonder it excited attention, for never was a book of sober analysis written with such pungency. One picked it up at random to chuckle over its wicked insights, its bared phrases, and its corrosive view of society in which elements of ridiculousness, cruelty, and barbarousness nestled in close juxtaposition with things taken for granted and worn smooth with custom and careless handling. The effect was electric, grotesque, shocking and amusing and the choice of words was nothing less than exquisite." (The Worldly Philosophers,1953)


This post is a collection of quotes from Veblen analyzing society.


Analysis of leisure


"In itself and in its consequences the life of leisure is beautiful and ennobling in all civilised men's eyes." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)


"In the modern industrial communities... the apparatus of living has grown so elaborate and cumbrous..." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)


"As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)


Analysis of consumption


"Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)


"The superior gratification derived from the use and contemplation of costly and supposedly beautiful products is, commonly, in great measure a gratification of our sense of costliness masquerading under the name of beauty." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)


"In order to stand well in the eyes of the community, it is necessary to come up to a certain, somewhat indefinite, conventional standard of wealth." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)