The Theory of the Leisure Class Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Theory of the Leisure Class.
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The Theory of the Leisure Class Summary & Study Guide Description

The Theory of the Leisure Class Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen.

The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen is a work of economic analysis conducted in the prose of social satire. The purpose of the book is given in the preface. Veblen seeks to determine the value of the leisure class as an economic factor. In doing this, he must look at how the leisure class evolved. In his examination of the leisure class, he must also look at non-economic features of their social life. The author draws on the experiences of everyday life and observation in his analysis. As such, there are no cited sources in his work.

The Theory of the Leisure Class is a study in economics despite its style of satire and its lack of the traditional economic jargon. Veblen examines the demand and consumption of the upper classes of society in terms that are not the traditional economic terms, and he does this without the use of data.

He begins by looking at how the leisure class came into existence. Veblen begins with a primitive society in which there are no class distinctions or forms of ownership. When the institution of ownership begins, with women seized by victors, then class distinction begins. This barbarian society has different characteristics than the primitive society does, and this is where the basis of the leisure class is found.

In order to examine the consumption and leisure habits of the leisure class, Veblen must look at their lifestyles. In doing so, he examines not only their characteristics but also their activities, manner of dress, religions, and pursuit of activities of higher learning. He views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both are related to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness. They avoid any kind of employment that is productive, since these are not considered to be honorable activities. This is the basis on which society forms and economic life functions.

The book is basically a satire on the upper classes and on modern society. In spite of its humor, Veblen intended for the work to be a serious economic analysis of modern society, even though there is no use of the terms demand and supply. At first there is a tendency not to take Veblen's works seriously, but with a little understanding of basic economics, it is clear what Veblen is saying.

Veblen's book is a different way of analyzing economic behavior. It is interesting reading, especially if one has some background in economics.

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