The Leisure Class

“The Theory of the Leisure Class”, written by Thorstein Veblen, was a piece written from observations on the effects of capitalism of the leisure class. Veblen mentions that the only purpose for the wealthy/leisure class is to consume. Veblen sees this type of lifestyle as a waste. He does not say it out right but Veblen looks at this time period as a sort of step back in terms of society and not a step forward. Veblen makes a mockery of the clothing as well as the language of those in wealthy positions.

In the second excerpt from chapter 7, Veblen talks about the dress of the leisure class and how that shows to the others they have status in society.[i] “One portion of the servant class, chiefly those persons whose occupation is vicarious leisure, come to undertake a new, subsidiary range of duties–the vicarious consumption of goods”.[ii] This quote shows Veblen saying that the main purpose for the leisure class is consumption. Veblen also talks about how one can look like they are in a leisure class just by the way they choose to dress. This gives the illusion of a lower person in society appearing as a member of a higher class. With dress being an area of focus for Veblen, he focuses on language as well.

Just as dress is a way to show status so is language. Those in the leisure class who use old/classic English are showing they have higher status within society and are better than those below them.[iii] He also mentions that since the leisure class speaks classic English, they spent their lives doing work other than useful.

[i] The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899

[ii] The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899

[iii] The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899

One thought on “The Leisure Class

  1. While I understand the argument that Veblen makes about wasteful consumption, isn’t the point of fashion to project wealth? I understand that he does not agree with the poors’ use of money to seek out such styles, but I always understood it as a way of either playing up or displaying ones wealth; albeit, it was inherently a self-derived need based on societal expectations. Why he ridicules the wealthy for having the free time or resources to do so as opposed to the poor who follow, I don’t understand. Ultimately, he should be critiquing society as a whole as opposed to classes in regards to fashion.

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