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Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin Great Ideas) Paperback – May 30, 2006
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If you get this book, consider also reading The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World's Classics). At times when reading both the Conspicuous Consumption and The Theory of the Liesure Class you might think that the books are very outmoded but at the same time you recognize that there is a strata of society that still behaves by some of these rules today.
Definitely, if you're looking to understand the finer nuances of high society, your education is not complete until you read both Conspicious Consumption and the Theory of the Liesure Class.
I was studying the behavior of royalty in ancient societies and wanted to do a bit of research into the parallels of modern Western society -- lets just say I received quite a bit of insight from these two works. Consider them.
Rereading it now, I was struck immediately by the sheer verbosity of the text. If my friend Arthur Seldon, once the Editorial Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, had applied his skills to it, it probably would have been too short to be a Reader's Digest Edition.
However, Veblen's hypothesis begins from a division of a society into classes based on power, a power derived from prowess in hunting and the accumulation of assets, specifically trophies and women. The latter are described as chattels, an idea which remains in western societies today, although the accumulation of status for women who consort with men with power enables some power to transfer to them but it remains only available to them effectively as a loan.
The logic which is followed reminds me of the work of von Mises, in it's a priori approach, but at it's conclusion there are many fundamentally unanswered questions. Veblen writes as though there is general acceptance of these processes without any rational other than the assumption that there are inherent tendencies within men which find expression in the accumulation process as he sets out. This assumption is debatable however. He produces no evidence to support his hypothesis and perhaps this area should be left more to anthropologists for further study. Neither does it deal with a basic notion of individuals voluntarily exchanging with each other.Read more ›