The Leisure Class Essay

1181 Words Mar 21st, 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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Conspicuous Waste Dress is an example of conspicuous waste. The way in which people dress is always on display and represents the pecuniary standing of the individual. Dress is more for show than for protection. Many times people do not protect themselves from the weather because they are more concerned with their appearances. They want to appear to be fashionable.

Veblen talks about dress being a spiritual need. The individual has a need to conform to the standards of taste. If an item of clothing is cheap, it is considered to be unworthy and inferior. Cheap imitations of expensive hand-made items don't have the aesthetic quality that the original items do. Individuals should wear expensive clothes that indicate that they do not engage in any form of productive employment. (Veblen: 168)


Societal change is the result of the forces of economics. Many changes come about in response to pecuniary pressures. Since the upper classes are not as subject to these pressures as other elements of society, they are the most resistant to change because change affects their habits and lifestyle. But change does occur and this is one of the things that Veblen looks at.

In order to examine the consumption and leisure habits of the leisure class, Veblen looked at their lifestyles. In doing so, he examined not only their characteristics but

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