As the fall term starts we begin a new series of readings focused on twentieth century approaches to Liberalism and Marxism including the Frankfurt school which was highly active and influential on both sides of the Atlantic.
We begin, however, with Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class.
The Theory of the Leisure Class proposes that economic life is driven by the remnants of tribal social stratification rather than by social and economic utility. According to Veblen, this stratification resulted from the barbarian culture of conquest, domination, and exploitation. Once in control, the conquerors created a division of labor, giving the difficult jobs to the vanquished and assumed other less labor-intensive work for themselves. Although they did perform some useful functions, they tended to be minor and peripheral, more symbolic than as practical. Veblen's analysis at the beginning of the 20th century proved to be accurate predictions of the future of industrial society.
For the first session we will read Chapters 1-7,
up to “Dress as an Expectation of the Pecuniary Culture.”
The book is available online in a variety of formats from Project Gutenberg: