The Theory of the Leisure Class

Thorstein Veblen

The Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen - click to see full size image

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The Theory of the Leisure Class is a classic work of social and economic theory written by Thorstein Veblen and first published in 1899. In this book, Veblen explores the concept of conspicuous consumption and critiques the socio-economic structure of late 19th-century America. Veblen argues that in this society, the upper classes engage in wasteful and often irrational spending on luxury goods and services as a means of displaying their social status and wealth. He coins the term 'conspicuous consumption' to describe this behavior, which he sees as driven by a desire for social recognition rather than practical utility. The book also introduces the concept of 'pecuniary emulation,' where individuals imitate the spending habits of the upper class in an attempt to climb the social ladder. Veblen further delves into the idea of 'conspicuous leisure,' where the upper class engages in non-productive activities, such as leisurely pursuits and ostentatious displays of idleness, to signal their social standing. Veblen's work is a critical analysis of the emerging consumer culture and materialism in late 19th-century America, and it remains influential in the fields of sociology, economics, and cultural studies. His insights into the relationship between social status, consumption patterns, and class distinctions continue to be relevant for understanding contemporary consumer behavior and societal stratification.

Part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set.

This book has 105,663 words, 155 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1899.

Production notes: This ebook of The Theory of the Leisure Class was published by Global Grey in 2021, and updated on the 4th October 2023. The artwork used for the cover is 'Idleness' by John William Godward.

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