"Conspicuous Consumption Of Valuable Goods"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Veblen points out that there is a fairly strict class division in consumption. The leisure class has the luxuries and the comforts of life, and the industrious class has only what is necessary for its subsistence. The master is the one who should directly benefit from the consumption of luxuries. The woman, then, generally consumes only for the benefit of her master. Not only does the gentleman of leisure consume in excess of the minimum for subsistence, but he also consumes of a better quality of goods. Too, he must know what is considered of the better quality and he must know how to consume it in a proper manner. At this point he finds himself in competition with others of his leisure class, and he must make his own opulence as evident as possible. The author then describes the method the gentleman of leisure uses to display his wealth:

Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments.