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Synopsis

Its true to say that Veblens 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, its thought-provoking and exciting stuff.

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. Veblens 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. I highly recommend Veblens best book.

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