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.