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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – May 20, 1994

4.0 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In his first and most fascinating book, Veblen was mocking a process as old as civilization. He expressed his skepticism in a rough-hewn prose style which made him the most impressive American satirist of his day."

 —Time

 "Every brash, upcoming generation should discover Veblen, and most complacent adults need to rediscover him."

 —The Minneapolis Tribune

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Almost a century after its original publication, Thorstein Veblen's work is as fresh and relevant as ever. Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class is in the tradition of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, yet it provides a surprisingly contemporary look at American economics and society. Establishing such terms as "conspicuous consumption" and "pecuniary emulation," Veblen's most famous work has become an archetype not only of economic theory, but of historical and sociological thought as well. As sociologist Alan Wolfe writes in his Introduction, Veblen "skillfully . . . wrote a book that will be read so long as the rich are different from the rest of us; which, if the future is anything like the past, they always will be." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (May 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486280624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486280622
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's true to say that Veblen's book is one of the great classics of economic theory; however, such a description suggests (at least to non-economists like myself) that the book will be either dull or remorselessly technical. On the contrary, "The Theory of the Leisure Class" is stylishly written, endlessly startling (for example, Veblen analyses religion as an outgrowth of the gambling instinct), and very, very funny. Its expose of "conspicuous consumption" (yes, Veblen was the one who invented this famous concept) is as relevant today as it was in 1899, if not more so. Whether or not you agree with all that he says, it's thought-provoking and exciting stuff.
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Format: Paperback
This opus by Veblen exposes the real meaning of the pecuniary advancement of the working and merchant classes, and the formation of elites based mostly upon money and asset valuation. The transfiguration of the traditional social and individual ethical values that this phenomenon produced, is portraited with clarity and sarcastic intelligence by the author in the book, first published in 1899.
Now a classic of economic theory, as well as a text book of social science, it describes the tendencies of consumerism, leisure and the "materialization" of the ideals of the aspiring new princes (or noveau rich) of society. Veblen's vibrant satire of the tendency of the modern individual to believe that real accomplishment is all about aquiring a condition of ostentatious wealth and status, and his analisis of the inception of modern class structure in America, still stand, a century after, as recommended reading for historians and economists.
If you are a fervent follower of advertisement, fashion, "glamour" and other modern expressions of consumerism , then you will find a surprisingly fresh portrait of yourself in this book. It worries me that the leisure class and its shallow views and values as described by Veblen, may still today represent elites in America and their religion, as analyzed by professor Lash in his last book "The Revolt of the Elites". I highly recommend Veblen's best book, to scholars and sociologists at large.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most significant works in American sociology. In it, the author presents the concepts of both 'conspicuous consumption' and 'consumer capitalism'. Thorsten Veblen developed these concepts and describes them here; both concepts are landmarks in the history of American culture. However, both Veblen's intellectual idiom and his prose style are typical of late 19-century rhetoric (the book was published in 1899). The essays are written in the pompous, stiff, and heavily embroidered purple prose of the era, and encrusted with the cultural chauvinism and bigotry of his day. I was barely able to get through it, and wondered more than once how Veblen, who is one of the most original thinkers in sociology, happened to retain such a fluid intelligence together with the small-mindedness of his time. It's still worth the read though. This is the man who was able to see beyond the ersatz science of the time to identify the cultural behaviors that define us as a people who buy things not because we need them, but for entertainment, and to display our personal identity.
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Thorstein Veblen was an American economist, who wrote this, his magnum opus, in 1899. In the subject line are six descriptive adjectives for him, the first two I borrowed from Wikipedia, the other four are my own (and no doubt, others). I've wanted to read this book for more than 40 years, ever since I read about Veblen in Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, Seventh Edition. His work was both extremely painful, and exceedingly worthwhile. One more goal, crossed off the list (ah, but that list continues to grow, like Sisyphus' stone.) And compared to this work, everything else I have ever read has been a "fun read," suitable for the beaches of summer.

His prose is turgid, archaic, opaque, riddled with redundancies, and, at times, utterly meaningless, as though a random word generator strung together some difficult words. I started marking examples, early on, for this review. I usually fine that three should suffice, but I will list four. If I listed them all, it would surely exceed Amazon's word limit: "The particular point of view, or the particular characteristic that is pitched upon as definitive in the classification of the facts of life depends upon the interest from which a discrimination of the facts is sought."; "It would on this account be misleading to attempt an analysis of devout demeanor by referring all evidences of the presence of a pecuniary standard of reputability back directly and baldly to the underlying norm of pecuniary emulation.
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Format: Paperback
Known by his contemporaries as the only social theorist to apply Darwin critically, in 1899 Thorstein Veblen published The Theory of the Leisure Class: A Economic Study of Institutions, which was to become the basis from which all further American leisure history and theory stemmed. In his study, Veblen is primarily concerned with the "new rich," whom he regards as social parasites that retard the growth of modern life. Thorstein Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class from a perspective that was largely isolated from his own culture, which either aided in his understanding of the Leisure Class or perhaps negatively influenced his opinions due to his exclusion from it. In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen essentially confines man and woman's existence on the planet as a struggle to change and adapt with the growth of their communities. Through this belief, Veblen develops a theme that amounts to the idea of a certain "dominant" type of individual. This individual develops a social structure through dominance in which social advance is sought by others. She/he will feel the discrepancy between the modern life and traditional life during the process. Though Veblen's rhetoric is sometimes anxious, sometimes negative, he actively pursues a specific account of the origins of the Leisure Class through individuals. The struggle for individual advancement eventually expands to include society, and the more individual struggle for advancement in society leads to the accumulation of surplus goods.
Surplus of conspicuous consumption by the Leisure Class gives the class license to indulge shamefully in pure conspicuous consumption, where their occupations eventually become leisure itself.
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