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Thorstein Veblen

(1857—1929) American economist and social scientist

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American economist and sociologist. He is remembered in political and moral philosophy for the doctrine of conspicuous consumption, expressed in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). He identifies the fundamental need to display financial well-being in what would otherwise seem wasteful display, in order to manifest status and stability, and to distinguish oneself from those slightly less well-off. Veblen argues that the principle is a human universal that explains a large variety of social phenomena. For example, we appreciate a well-trimmed lawn because it is a sign of surplus labour and wealth, or employ a butler because having an able-bodied man doing next to nothing is more meritorious than having someone who could not do much else. see also Mandeville, Smith, vanity.

Subjects: Social sciences

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