Thorstein Bunde Veblen (30 July 1857 – 3 August 1929), born Tosten Bunde Veblen, was a Norwegian-American sociologist and economist and a leader of the Efficiency Movement, most famous for The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
- As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace. ...this want ...is indefinitely expansible, after the manner commonly imputed in economic theory to higher or spiritual wants. It is owing chiefly to the presence of this element in the standard of living that J. S. Mill was able to say that "hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being."
- Veblen (1899) The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions
- The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.
- Velben (1908) The Evolution of the Scientific Point of View, University of California Chronicle
- It is a matter of course and of absolute necessity to the conduct of business, that any discretionary businessman must be free to deal or not to deal in any given case; to limit or withhold the equipment under his control, without reservation. Business discretion and business strategy, in fact, has no other means by to work out its aims. So that, in effect, all business sagacity reduces itself in the last analysis to judicious use of sabotage.
- Velben (1917) An Inquiry Into the Nature of Peace, and the Terms of Its Perpetuation, p. 168.
- In point of substantial merit the law school belongs in the modern university no more than a school of fencing or dancing.
- Thorstein Velben (1918) The Higher Learning in America. p.155
- Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.
- ch. iv.
- The institution of a leisure class has emerged gradually during the transition from primitive savagery to barbarism; or more precisely, during the transition from a peaceable to a consistently warlike habit of life.
- In order to stand well in the eyes of the community, it is necessary to come up to a certain, somewhat indefinite, conventional standard of wealth.
- In itself and in its consequences the life of leisure is beautiful and ennobling in all civilised men's eyes.
- From the ownership of women the concept of ownership extends itself to include the products of their industry, and so there arises the ownership of things as well as of persons.
- The possession of wealth confers honor; it is an invidious distinction.
- However widely, or equally, or "fairly", it may be distributed, no general increase of the community's wealth can make any approach to satiating this need, the ground of which is the desire of every one to excel every one else in the accumulation of goods.
- While the proximate ground of discrimination may be of another kind, still the pervading principle and abiding test of good breeding is the requirement of a substantial and patent waste of time.
- The chief use of servants is the evidence they afford of the master's ability to pay.
- Whatever approves itself to us on any ground at the outset, presently comes to appeal to us as a gratifying thing in itself; it comes to rest in our habits of thought as substantially right.
- In the modern industrial communities... the apparatus of living has grown so elaborate and cumbrous... that the consumers of these things cannot make way with them in the required manner without help.
- The latter-day outcome of this evolution of an archaic institution, the wife, who was at the outset the drudge and chattel of the man... has become the ceremonial consumer of goods which he produces. But she still quite unmistakably remains his chattel in theory; for the habitual rendering of vicarious leisure and consumption is the abiding mark of the unfree servant.
- In modern civilized communities... the members of each stratum accept as their ideal of decency the scheme of life in vogue in the next higher stratum.
- Leisure held the first place at the start, and came to hold a rank very much above wasteful consumption of goods... From that point onward, consumption has gained ground, until, at present, it unquestionably holds the primacy.
- It frequently happens that an element of the standard of living which set out with being primarily wasteful, ends with becoming, in the apprehension of the consumer, a necessary of life.
- It is much more difficult to recede from a scale of expenditure once adopted than it is to extend the accustomed scale in response to an accession of wealth.
- In the rare cases where it occurs, a failure to increase one's visible consumption when the means for an increase are at hand is felt in popular apprehension to call for explanation, and unworthy motives of miserliness are imputed.
- A standard of living is of the nature of habit. ...it acts almost solely to prevent recession from a scale of conspicuous expenditure that has once become habitual.
- The need of conspicuous waste... stands ready to absorb any increase in the community's industrial efficiency or output of goods.
- As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace.
- The domestic life of most classes is relatively shabby, as compared with the éclat of that overt portion of their life that is carried on before the eyes of observers.
- The thief or swindler who has gained great wealth by his delinquency has a better chance than the small thief of escaping the rigorous penalty of the law.
- In the priestly life of all anthropomorphic cults the marks of a vicarious consumption of time are visible.
- All ritual has a notable tendency to reduce itself to a rehearsal of formulas.
- There is probably no cult in which ideals of pecuniary merit have not been called in to supplement the ideals of ceremonial adequacy that guide men's conception of what is right in the matter of sacred apparatus.
- The requirement of conspicuous wastefulness is... present as a constraining norm selectively shaping and sustaining our sense of what is beautiful.
- The superior gratification derived from the use and contemplation of costly and supposedly beautiful products is, commonly, in great measure a gratification of our sense of costliness masquerading under the name of beauty.
- The walking stick serves the purpose of an advertisement that the bearer's hands are employed otherwise than in useful effort, and it therefore has utility as an evidence of leisure.
Absentee Ownership: Business Enterprise in Recent Times, 1923
- Born in iniquity and conceived in sin, the spirit of nationalism has never ceased to bend human institutions to the service of dissension and distress.
- It is always sound business to take any obtainable net gain, at any cost and at any risk to the rest of the community.
- p. 191
Last modified on 28 December 2012, at 02:08
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- Labor wants also pride and joy in doing good work, a sense of making or doing something beautiful or useful - to be treated with dignity and respect as brother and sister.
- No one travelling on a business trip would be missed if he failed to arrive.
- Servants should not only show a servile disposition, but it is quite as imperative that they should show a trained conformity to the canons of conspicuous subservience.
- The addiction to sports, therefore, in a peculiar degree marks an arrested development in man's moral nature.
- The basis on which good repute in any highly organized industrial community ultimately rests is pecuniary strength; and the means of showing pecuniary strength, and so of gaining or retaining a good name, are leisure and a conspicuous consumption of goods.
- The dog commends himself to our favor by affording play to our propensity for mastery.
- [T]he pulpit [is] the accredited vent for the exudation of effete matter from the cultural organism.
- With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the propensity for emulation is probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic motives proper.
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- Invention is the mother of necessity.
- This quote is a play on the ancient maxim that "necessity is the mother of invention"; it means that new inventions quickly become necessities to societies that adopt them.