The Code of Law of 1649

The Ulozhenie, or the Code of Law of 1649, illuminates the immense strength of the Russian government at this time. We read the first several chapters, on blasphemy and improper behavior in church; respect for the Sovereign; forging documents; forging money; and travel to other countries. Each section describes violent and physical punishments for people who fight or disagree in church or who plot against the Sovereign. These laws show not only a regimented society, but also a strong and organized one. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the Russian government had very specific procedures regarding legal documents; standardized forms of money; and clear, indisputable land boundaries.

Analyzing this document in regards to the Sudebnik of 1497 and the Pravda Russkaia of the eleventh century, I am most interested in the section on counterfeit money. The Sudebnik, 150 years before, included laws about blaspheming the church and even land boundaries, but the Ulozhenie is the first code I’ve seen which mentions money. The law dictates, “If mint masters should make either copper, or tin, or economical money…or if they should add copper, tin, or lead to silver and thereby cause harm to the Sovereign’s treasury, such mint masters should be executed by puring molten  matter down their throats” (Ulozhenie). Violent and terrifying punishment aside, this act demonstrates that the “Sovereign’s treasury” was composed of silver, and that the common currency was also pieces of silver. Copper and tin were not valid forms of currency; the state had a standarized money system. Furthermore, the tsar understood that corrupting that system could severely disrupt the economics of the country–hence the brutal punishment for the counterfeiter.

This point, however, makes me wonder how widespread this currency was. The presence of a law does not mean that its citizens followed it. Were silver coins only used in the cities, with trades of goods still used in the country?

The Theory of the Leisure Class and Conspicuous Consumption

Author: Thorstein Veblen was an American economist and sociologist, along with being the leader of the institutional economics movement. He was born to Norwegian parents, and studied at well-known American colleges.

Context: The Theory of the Leisure Class was written in 1899, following the Industrial Revolution and during a time of more widespread prosperity as a result of industrialization.

Language:Using a didactic, matter-of-fact tone, Veblen uses the repetition of words such as “consumption”, “leisure”, “vicarious”, “superior”, “servants”, and “classes” to instill the key message of the work into readers’ minds. His tone is almost satirical in the way that he pokes fun at the way people use material goods as a sign of status.

Audience: Veblen writes for an audience interested in economics, sociology, or both.

Intention: Veblen’s intention is to make people aware of the consumerist culture that has taken over society as a result of the division of labor and the division of classes.

Message: Veblen’s message is to convey to society that consumption has become a way of conforming in modern society. He criticizes the way that the consumption of material goods has become a means of proving wealth and status, and points out the association between honor and material acquisitions. He also claims that clothing has become a way of expressing status, rather than a way of protection.

Conspicuous Consumption

Author:  The piece was written by Thorstein Veblen, an American economist and sociologist.  He is well known for his thinking in the field, as he applied Darwinian theory to economic analysis.

Context:  Written in 1902, Veblen was writing in the midst of the second Industrial Revolution.  As the middle class began to surge, many previously lower class individuals were becoming more prosperous.  Veblen observes this phenomenon, thus he writes Conspicuous Consumption.

Language: Veblen’s tone is analytic, observant, and unromantic.  His diction is advanced.

Audience: Veblen is writing for the a intellectual audience, as indicated by his advanced word choice.

Intent:  Veblen is pointing out the vast eruption of the middle class and its transformation into a consumer society, a society that spends money on luxury goods, in order to flaunt their wealth to others.  He sees this as relatively negative and criticizes them.

Message: Veblen makes an attempt to show that the world is becoming too materialistic, as many purchase items to simply show wealth; items that are otherwise useless.  He continues, saying that the rift between the rich and poor is becoming more vast, and the public displays of money only adds to this.

Thorstein Veblen on Conspicuous Consumption

Author: Thorstein Veblen, born in Wisconsin in 1857, was an economist and sociologist. He grew up in Minnesota, raised by his parents to value education and hard work. Perhaps this is the root for his distain of what he termed as “conspicuous consumption” and waste of the Gilded Age.

Context: He wrote Conspicuous Consumption in 1902 in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class. He wrote this during the second industrial revolution.

Language: Veblen’s tone is critical, informative and philosophical.

Audience: Veblen’s audience is the upper class and other philosophers or sociologists.

Intent: Veben’s intent in this piece is to deconstruct the consumer culture of the “Gilded Age” and enlighten people on America’s money lust and thirst for status. He exposes the upper class’ need to show off their status by buying items in excess and splurging on superfluous extras.

Message: His overall message in this piece is the harm in society’s need for status based on wealth. He believes it is a waste for people to spend extraordinary amounts on what they don’t need just to prove to society that they have the means to. He has brings up the problems this causes for the economy and the character of people as well. Veblen argues that this culture creates a bigger divide between the rich and poor and is wasteful of resources. According to him, people should not consume more than is necessary for quality of life- it is bad form and extremely wasteful.

Veblen’s Leisure Class

Author: Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption (1902); American-born son of Norwegian immigrants who owned a farm where he spent his youth; his rural background may have led to his prejudice against the so-called “wasteful consumption” urban dwellers engaged in, leading him to write this essay

Context: beginning of the 20th century, during a period of rapid urbanization; the influx of Americans to large cities allowed the economy to grow because of the rise of the middle class, or the “leisure class” as he calls it

Language: he seemed to have disdain for the rise of the leisure class; he often mentions these people’s spending habits as wasteful and unnecessary

Audience: seems to be written for educated individuals, perhaps directed at those within the leisure class; may have been an address to enlighten those who participated in “conspicuous consumption” about the faults of their actions

Intent: again, it seems to have been written as a wake-up call to those within the leisure class to prevent them from further spending wastefully; he wished to highlight the divide between the middle class (those who in his eyes spent money wastefully and those who appeared to be more thrifty)

Message: The essay noted the rise of a socioeconomic class that fell somewhere between the upper class as he knew it and the lower class. This developing class could not be grouped as consistent however; those living in urban areas adapted the traits of those around them–the upper class–by spending money on things other than what was necessary for survival, like clothing, for this group of people was wont to appear to fit with those around them. Meanwhile, others of similar economic situations living in rural areas found no need for such frivolous spending because of the lower amount of human interaction. These, he argued, were people who spent their money wisely, because it was only done in an effort to survive, and not to acquire unnecessary materials. He scorned those in urban areas for trying or pretending to be something that they were not, and asked them (although not directly) to look to those he considered fiscally responsible for guidance on how to spend money properly.

Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption

Author: Thorstein Veblen was born in 1857 in Wisconsin and moved to Minnesota where he spent the majority of his childhood working on his family’s farm. His family was a part of an immigrant farming community that stressed hard work and dedication, explains his disdain for the effects of capitalism, as shown in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class.

Context: Veblen wrote about Conspicuous Consumption in 1902 in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class and coined the phrase as a way to describe the behavioral characteristics of the emerging social class that was a result of  acquired wealth during the Second Industrial Revolution.

Language: Veblen’s tone is educated and informative. He provides an in-depth analysis of conspicuous consumption and how if affects society as a whole.

Audience: Veblen wrote for a more sophisticated and educated audience, as his text is quite complex. He also writes from a more philosophical standpoint.

Intent: Veblen sought to inform his audience about what he defines as a further division of labor—that between different servant classes. He saw one portion of the servant class, mainly those whose pursuit is leisure, who had undertaken the hobby of the various consumption of goods. Veblen wanted to educate people about the families of the upper class who used their wealth as a way of revealing their social prominence and power.

Meaning: In his text, Veblen vehemently criticizes conspicuous consumption, which he considered to be the unnecessary spending of money on luxury items and services as a means to display societal power. According to Veblen, people should only spend what is necessary to live an adequate life. He writes; “When the quasi-peaceable stage of industry is reached, with its fundamental institution of chattel slavery, the general principle, more or less rigorously applied, is that the base, industrious class should consume only what may be necessary to their subsistence.”

The Theory of the Leisure Class

Author: Thorstein Veblen was an American sociologist and economist born in Wisconsin in the year 1857. He was raised in a prosperous Norwegian household by his two parents, and he thrived as from an early age they instilled solid life values and beliefs in him. He studied at multiple prestigious colleges around the country. He wrote his most famous work The Theory of the Leisure Class, when he was in his forties.

Context: This piece was published in 1899, during a period known as the Gilded Age. This was a time of great economic expansion in the United States, leading Veblen to write about how the profits were being spent.

Language: Veblen uses very critical language in this piece, as he is going directly after a singular group of people. His tone can be categorized as somewhat flippant towards the leisure class, although the piece is an excellent example of how prose can be put together. He knows exactly what he is trying to say and uses a specific tone and set of words to get his point across.

Audience: Veblen is writing to a the educated world as a whole. He is giving his thoughts to anyone who would like to read them, especially the people to whom he is writing about (leisure class). He wants his ideas to be seen, debated, and taken into account by the populace as a whole.

Intent: Veblen wanted to break down the society into the people who spend superfluously and those who are rational and understand how to be fiscally responsible. He wanted to show how those extravagant people were actually hurting their country and themselves more than they were helping (waste=bad).

Message: Veblen put the leisure class out on a line in this piece. He showed how their flamboyance was a detriment to themselves and the society around them as it started new negative trends that the rest of the populace would then adopt. His main point was that it was poor form to waste materials (even if you had the financial means to do so) because it doesn’t help anyone in the long run – it just makes you look like a fool.

Leisure Class

Author: Thorstein Veblen, born in 1857, was a respected American sociologist and economist. He was raised in Nerstrand, Minnesota by successful Norwegian parents who accentuated the values of hard work and education while contributing to his disdain for lavishness. He began his formal studies in economics at the age of seventeen and worked under the tutelage of many prominent economists.
Context: Veblen’s renowned economic treatise, The Theory of the Leisure Class, was published in the United States in 1899. The Gilded Age, a period of economic growth and increased immigration in the U.S., was just reaching its conclusion. Veblen accused the leisure class of squandering the advantages of the Gilded Age through their ostentation, or conspicuous consumption.
Language: The prose in The Theory of the Leisure Class is intelligent and complex. Using precise word choice and sophisticated sentence structure, Veblen was able to squeeze a substantial amount of insight into little space. The tone of the treatise is derisive and overflowing with contempt for the leisure class and their conspicuous consumption.
Audience: The language reveals that Veblen wrote his book for an educated audience with a prior understanding of economic and sociological theory.
Intent: In ridiculing the leisure class, Veblen elucidated his desire to reverse the prevailing sociological mindset of conveying economic reputability. Veblen sought to warn his contemporaries and the public of the wastefulness of conspicuous consumption and urged consumers to rely on prudence instead of propriety.
Message: The primary aim of The Theory of the Leisure Class was to denounce the leisure class’s use of conspicuous consumption as a vehicle to enhance their apparent economic or social stature. Veblen provided an appropriate example of conspicuous consumption in identifying society’s preoccupation with how people dress. He recognized attire as the most prevalent expenditure in any line of consumption because of its immediate observability and effectiveness in indicating one’s economic standing. Regrettably, the desire to be fashionable overwhelms the need for a practical and comfortable wardrobe. The growth of the economy during the Gilded Age led many people to purchase extravagant items in an effort to enhance their observable economic standing, which Veblen condemned as a squandering of potential advantages.

The Leisure Class

Author: Thorstein Veblen was an American economist and sociologist who is famous for his combination of Darwinian theories and institutional economics. He was born in 1857 in Wisconsin to Norwegian immigrants.

Context: The Theory of the Leisure Class was written in 1899 during a boom in industry called the Gilded Age.  It also brought a great many immigrants with a promise of abundant new jobs.

Language: He makes fun of the “leisure class” calling them rather useless to society.  They provide no stimulation to the economy and no betterment to the social aspect of the country.  They are distant and disconnected.

Audience: He wrote to an educated audience. He wrote for scholars that were intelligent enough to recognize his satiric writing and understand his slightly complex writing style.

Intent:  Veblen wanted to broadcast his views of the leisure class and their uselessness.  He also wanted to share his views on the new industrial boom.  It was good for the economy, stimulated growth and provided new jobs for immigrants coming from all over the world.

Message: He was trying to bring to light the divide between the newly emerged working class.  Those actually earn an honest living and those who oppress their workers to squeeze as much profit out of them as possible. Society was rapidly growing and becoming industry based.  With this industrial change came the mistreatment of workers and the exploitation of immigrants who came with the promise of good, honest work.


The Domostroi, Chapters 35-49

The Domostroi clearly sets out each person’s role in a household. It is very clear on how one should carry themselves and how to act in various situations. In chapter 35, the focus is on how servants should conduct themselves while running errands. They are supposed to be very conservative and follow every instruction given. They are told not to gossip at any point, and to give the utmost respect to whoever they are sent to. This includes not coughing, sneezing, or taking any interest in a household’s possessions.  For women, The Domostroi also lays out a very conservative lifestyle. They are not supposed to eat or drink at any point without their husband’s knowledge, have strangers in their household without the husband knowing, and cannot drink any type of alcohol other than light beer or kvass. This of course also means that no woman should ever drink alcohol to the point of drunkenness. The man’s role is primarily focused on maintaining the order of things and enforcing the rules set forth. It states that if a man does not structure his household in the way shown, “he will be destroyed now and forever. His house will also be destroyed.”

The Domostroi’s rules all follow the same religious trend. Everything that is said carries the force of God which could mean that it was either followed very closely or possibly very leniently. Some of the roles stated seem to be close to impossible to follow such as not being allowed to do normal bodily functions like coughing or sneezing in front of a master. Like many of the codes written before its content is very religiously skewed. If Christianity was widely accepted at the time then these texts may have been very valid. However, without a strong central authority that would strictly enforce these rules, I find it hard to believe that most people could follow such a strict and contextual code.

Chapters 37 and 38 discuss the proper ways in which to care for clothing and organize the house. Clothing should be kept neatly stored, and free from all stains. The author of The Domostroi takes careful consideration when outlining appropriate dress for a variety of occasions: work should be performed in old clothes, and the very best clothes should be worn to church and when going out in public. Chapter 38, entitled How to Keep {Dishes in Good Order and} Arrange the Domestic Utensils. {How to Keep Rooms} Neat and Clean. {How the Housewife should Punish Her Servants, How her Husband Should Supervise Her, Punish Her, and Save Her with Fear} outlines the proper ways to maintain the kitchen, prepare and save food and clean the house. The author places an emphasis on organization and clean hygiene practices (especially when handling/storing food), and says that entering an organized area “is like entering Paradise” (143).

Chapter 38 also touches upon the issue of enforcing organization and the maintenance of ‘Paradise.’ Wives should be punished with a beating, but should also be forgiven for their transgressions. Children and servants should be punished in a similar fashion, and no one should ever be struck out of anger or hatred. Chapter 39 says that a failure to correctly teach and enforce the mistress, servants and children would result in judgement from God. Alternatively, a master who could teach the other members of the household and maintains an organized house received mercy from God.

The Domostroi puts a strong emphasis on the importance of being clean and keeping an organized house. The author’s decision to use God’s judgement as punishment highlights the religiosity of the time period. Such punishment would have had no bearing on a society which wasn’t devout. The attention to cleanliness is also an indicator that people were not dirty and unhygienic, but rather that dressing nicely and keeping a clean, organized house was a matter of pride. The hierarchal nature of society can be seen especially well in the doling out of punishments: the master is responsible for teaching and discipling his wife, children and servants.

Chapters 40, 48, and 49 mainly talk about the role of the steward in the household. The steward runs the kitchens and all that encompasses, from planning meals to making sure thing are clean in the morning.. They are entrusted by the master with this task, so that the master can attend to other things. Part of the job is to check to make sure the house has enough foodstuffs and arrange for more to be bought if it is running low. There is advice included as to who should be trusted to buy from and how to attempt to even make some money with excess supplies. They should also walk through the kitchen every morning to make sure that everything is in it’s place and in good repair. After the husband and wife talk about the meals they want it is the stewards job to make sure they get what they want. He has buy and give  to the cooks and bakers the proper ingredients, then make sure the food is prepared properly. Afterwards he is in charge of dealing with leftovers and making sure everything is cleaned.

The position of steward is not too dissimilar to a position you might see in modern times in a large household. Now and assumably then it was the type of thing that a fairly rich family would have. To have your own bakers, cooks, and other serving people that you need someone to watch over them it would be a lot of people. The rules and instructions are quite strict for how they should act which makes sense due to the amount of money they would handle and opportunities for them to steal. It is interesting that a man must consult his wife before determining what the meals for the day will be but it makes sense. Food is stereotypically the women’s job and it keeps her from being unhappy with what she is eating. Overall these rules are very similar to the description of a modern job which is interesting for text over 500  years old.

The Domostroi, or “Household Order” in English arguably aligns itself very similarly to many seemingly basic ‘codes of conduct’ – especially when referring to property. For instance, people of fifteenth century Russia valued guarantees the same way present-day society does. With regards to servants and their handling of artifact property, the Domostroi places a target on said servant’s back, making sure the servant – if delivering goods – holds himself accountable every step of the way. The Domostroi also lays out codes for how people should conduct themselves as guests in others’ homes, codes that arguably everybody – regardless of a person’s culture – should follow. Some of these codes include not wandering about aimlessly and picking up objects without permission.

On a similar note, the Domostroi states that guests should always bring gifts to their respective hosts. Hosts are also required to make sure their stock (food, drink, utilities, etc.) is always full (The Domostroi explicitly states, a “sensible household should contain everything that will be used in the house during that year”)(152). One element of conduct in the Domostroi that is a debatable form of conduct (religion aside) is how women should behave. Chapters 35-49 of the Domostroi state that women shouldn’t drink – ever. It also places (arguably) too much responsibility on the husband with regards to what women can and cannot eat. The Domostroi states that wife’s must ask their husbands about what they can and cannot eat. The code also advocates for self-sufficiency, by teaching it’s readers how to cook, farm, and preserve stock for year-long consumption.