leisure class

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Consuming, parasitic class, represented by an idle elite engaged in continuous public demonstration of their status. The idea is particularly associated with the American sociological economist Thorstein Veblen, who published The Theory of the Leisure Class in 1899. Veblen saw the fundamental human motive as the maximization of status rather than orientation towards any monetary variable. In establishing status, expenditure was more important than income, enhanced status being often achieved by ‘conspicuous consumption’. Thus a leisure class comes into being which dominates and trivializes leisure within a culture, though this pattern of consumption may be a necessary feature of the working of the economic system. Veblen's theories belong in the category of critical analysis of consumer society, a form of discourse embracing such writers as Lewis Mumford, J. K. Galbraith, and J. B. Priestley. The contemporary significance of Veblen's theories is that in an ‘affluent society’ large sections of the population may come to share the attitudes and behaviour of the ‘leisure class’.

Lincoln Allison


Subjects: Sociology — Politics.

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