Summary of The Theory of the Leisure Class

Dover Publications,
First Edition: 1899 more...

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The Theory of the Leisure Class book summary
This slow but classic tale of the rising American leisure class still deserves its sociological and economic rank.


6 Overall

8 Importance

8 Innovation

3 Style


This may not be a book to read for recreation, unless you like 1890s verbal locutions, but there are other reasons to read it. The emergence of the economic analysis of Western society might intrigue you. You might discover the origins of such still useful terms as "leisure class" and "conspicuous consumption," among others. You might be curious about author Thorstein Veblen’s status-conscious, anachronistic world of working men and idle wives, which reflects upper-class society in his day. Published in 1899, this is a classic in sociology and economic literature, although it is a veritable dreadnought of density. It discusses property, ownership, status and leisure in a turn-of-the-last-century American context. Though scholars call it a "satire," the book is hardly witty or ironic. Instead, it is a stolid analytical daguerreotype of a world long gone. getAbstract suggests that if you tackle Veblen’s old-fashioned, slow-flowing prose, you should do it for the background you may glean and the scholarly satisfaction you may feel when you are done. Instead of Alexander Pope’s, "What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed," this book presents what oft was said and usually better, but not as early.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why this book’s economic and sociological terms still have meaning, though it was written in 1899
  • How the author analyzed the economic underpinnings of society at the time
  • How property ownership and social status historically emerged hand in hand


Origins of a Leisure Class
In feudal cultures, the upper classes did not engage in industrial occupations. The medieval elite belonged to the leisure class. Noblemen regarded very few pursuits as honorable, most notably warfare and the priesthood. The actual productive work was done, primarily...
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About the Author

Thorstein Veblen taught at the University of Chicago, Stanford University and the University of Missouri before co-founding the New School for Social Research in New York.

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