Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen

This is some stuff I wrote about Veblen a while back. I'll come back and edit it later. I thought the discussion today was really interesting. Veblen may have been a tad bit pessimistic, but his works can really wake a person up. I had an acquaintance once that refused to buy a very expensive shirt because he said they had started selling the same brand at a discount store. I believe this situation fits Veblen's description of envy quite perfectly. I still find it hard to believe that everyone in the leisure class is out to dominate everyone in the working class, but then again it is a dog eat dog world. I'll add more to this later.

Veblen only recognized two classes. Capitalism is evil according to him and those who are in power are there because they stole. He outlined pointless consumption and believed in specialization.

His Beliefs

o Division of labor is simplistic as it occurs on a fundamental level between the working and the leisure class. Further division is irrelevant.

o Specialization of labor on the level of the leisure class is focused on pursuit of war, politics, sorts, learning and clergy duties

o Specialization of labor on the level of the working class is mere “outgrowth of what is classed as woman’s work in the primitive barbarian community” taken to a larger scale.

o Industrialization is not perceived as the coercion of men by men, but men taking over the non-human environment and using it to their advantage.

o Leisure class is the concentration of evil in human nature as it is cultivated from the long-standing tradition of people who hunt and compete, thus, are oriented toward coercion and destruction.

o The division of labor between work and leisure predisposes society to a predatory, rather than peaceful existence.

o Consumption exists in two forms – a less intrusive and prevalent – consumption of food, shelter and clothing, which is required for sustenance and conspicuous consumption, the fruit of the class separation, is the consumption of goods that emphasizes one’s belongingness to one or the other social segments.

o Veblen believed capitalist promote mindless consumerism

o He also believed that anyone not in the leisure class wants to become wealthy.

o Social hierarchy is dependent on the grades and quantity of consumption.

Industry (drudgery) – effort that goes to create a new thing, with a new purpose given it by the fashioning had of its maker out of passive (brute) material.
Usually females – what is not good enough for the man to do.

Exploit – so far as it results in an outcome useful to the agent, is the conversion to his own ends of energies previously directed to some other end by another agent.
Usually males – more readily inclined to self assertion and aggression

1 comment:

  1. I think you made some important distinctions about Veblen's theory. While I do believe like you that many of his core arguments are relevant I have to disagree with his conceptualization of class. There are more than two classes today, many who rule another. The leisure class can exploit the working class. However, the upper middle class may also exploit the working class. While every class exploits or worse yet ignores the poorest class in our society. There is a lot of truth to Veblen's theory today but there is still room to redefine his notion of class.