The Theory of the Leisure Class

16 Nov, 2023 330 Economics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most influential work of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). In 1899, during America’s Gilded Age, Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class as a reminder that all that glisters is not gold. He picked on traits of the waning landed class of Americans and showed how the new moneyed class was adopting these in ways that led to greater waste throughout society. He called these conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption and he developed a critique of a system that favoured profits for owners without regard to social good. The Theory of the Leisure Class was a best seller and funded Veblen for the rest of his life, and his ideas influenced the New Deal of the 1930s. Since then, an item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good.

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  • Matthew Watson 2 episodes
    Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick
  • Bill Waller No other episodes
    Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York
  • Mary Wrenn No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of the West of England

Reading list

  • Veblen: The Making of an Economist who Unmade Economics
    Charles Camic (Harvard University Press, 2021) Google Books →
  • Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class
    John P. Diggins (Princeton University Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory
    John P. Diggins (Seabury Press, 1978) Google Books →
  • The Affluent Society
    John Kenneth Galbraith (Penguin, 1999) Google Books →
  • The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers
    Robert Heilbroner (Penguin, 2000) Google Books →
  • Veblen in Plain English: A Complete Introduction to Thorstein Veblen's Economics
    Ken McCormick (Cambria Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen
    Sidney Plotkin and Rick Tilman (Yale University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need
    Juliet B. Schor (William Morrow & Company, 1999) Google Books →
  • Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
    Juliet B. Schor (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2005) Google Books →
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class
    Thorstein Veblen (Oxford University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Theory of Business Enterprise
    Thorstein Veblen (Legare Street Press, 2022) Google Books →
  • The Higher Learning in America
    Thorstein Veblen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America
    Thorstein Veblen (Routledge, 2017) Google Books →
  • Conspicuous Consumption
    Thorstein Veblen (Penguin, 2005) Google Books →
  • The Complete Works
    Thorstein Veblen (Musaicum Books, 2017) Google Books →
  • Institutional Economics: Perspective and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World
    Charles J. Whalen (ed.) (Routledge, 2021) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1899, at the height of the American Gilded Age, Thorstein Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class, a reminder that all that glistens is not gold.