Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 191
Sociologist Thorstein Verblen's Theory of the Leisure Class is a satirical critique on America's conspicuous consumption during the late nineteenth century. Verblen offers both a description of the "leisure class" in America and an exposition of their uniquely extravagant consumption habits. Verblen is ultimately critical of the leisure class, which he sees as controlling the means of production. On this point, his analysis is similar to that of Marx (who saw modes of production was an index of economic influence). Ironically, Verblen notes, it is these individuals who are the greatest consumers. In addition to their level of production, Verblen further critiques the nature of the leisure class's appraisal of goods, specifically the tendency to regard something that is more expensive as if it is automatically of greater value.
Verblen also claims that religion and education are forms of unnecessary consumption, as neither directly contributes to society. Overall, Verblen is much less optimistic and less charitable toward the leisure class than other sociologists. He makes little allowance for the contributions they do make within a capitalist framework, and he is overtly and strongly critical of capitalism as a larger economic model.
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