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Modern Society

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  1. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Background • Wisconsin farm boy. • Hatred of tricksters. • Family of prosperous farmers. • Carleton College, John Hopkins University, Yale University, Cornell University. • Gift from wife’s father: A farm in Iowa. • Many academic appointments: • University of Chicago. • University of Missouri.

  2. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Intellectual Influences • Karl Marx, Points of Agreement • Technological imperatives. • Alienation of workers. • Two-class stratification system. • Karl Marx, Points of Disagreement • Rejected historical determinancy. • Rejected increasing misery of working class. • Rejected labor theory of value. • Rejected teleological optimism.

  3. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Intellectual Influences • Herbert Spencer • Evolutionary economics. • Survival of the fittest. • Charles Darwin • Change is continuous, with no final term. • Habits of thought emerge through trial and error. • Edward Bellamy • Socialist utopia. • Nationalized industry.

  4. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Intellectual Influences • Immanuel Kant • Need for defensive military. • Competitive preparedness. • Neutral colors of global shipping. • Pragmatism and Psychology • Self and self-esteem. • Perceptions are biased.

  5. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Theory of the Leisure Class • Highly critical of the elite. • Unproductive activities. • Conspicuous consumption • Conspicuous leisure • Inappropriate role models. • Sports were inherently immoral and degrading. The masses, to gain some sense of self-esteem, wanted to emulate the elite (football as the poor man’s polo).

  6. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Conspicuous Consumption • Public display of material goods. • Public display of privileged status. • Wasteful lifestyles contribute to the downfall of societies. • Vulgar pursuit of self-esteem. • Conspicuous leisure to gain approval.

  7. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Capitalist Waste • Habits of the mind. • New aristocracy in industry. • All members of society engage in waste to conform with cultural expectations for displays of wealth and success.

  8. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Business Enterprise • The industrial system is best. • Class conflict is inevitable. • Owners are motivated to restrict production to maximize profits (demand side economics). • Utility economics was hedonistic, rationalistic, and destructive.

  9. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Evolutionary Theory • Savage society. • Peace, cooperation. • Barbaric society. • Competition, predation. • Mechanical society. • Handicrafts. • Material interests. • Ownership of the means of production. • Not necessarily a superior culture.

  10. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Cultural Lag • New technologies. • Culture lag as society adapts. • Cultural Borrowing • Adapt new technologies to the society. • Eliminate flaws in the original technology.

  11. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Human Nature • Human behavior is instinctual. • Human behavior is habitual. • Social forces modify habits. • Veblen was, in general, pessimistic about humans. • Humans are wasteful and prideful.

  12. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Class • Accumulation creates classes. • Accumulation becomes the goal. • Wealthy engage in conspicuous leisure. • Gender • Predation values aggression and values trophies: Roles given to men. • Poor women do less prestigious manual work. • Attractive women seen as trophies of wealthy men (conspicuous consumption).

  13. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Concepts and Contributions • Higher Education • Masses should be educated. • Class size should be small. • Universities should have few extracurricular activities. • Opposed to: • Sports, • Fraternities, • Clubs.

  14. Modern Society Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) • Relevancy • Conspicuous consumption. • Conspicuous leisure. • Cultural borrowing. • Cultural lag. • Effects of sports and leisure on society. • Effects of large corporations on society. • “Cold war” mentality could be lessened with increased cultural borrowing and diffusion.