- A term coined by Thorstein Veblen . In his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Veblen postulates the growth of a conspicuously consuming, parasitic, leisure class in the United States, represented by an idle business élite. This élite is argued to be the product of the competitive struggles of modern business in industrializing America: ‘absolute ownership’ has isolated it from the ‘instinct of workmanship’ which Veblen believed was essential to continued technological development of societies. Instead, members of the élite are engaged in continuous public demonstrations of their status, a process which Veblen terms ‘conspicuous consumption’. This is a form of hedonism involving the ostentatious display and waste of possessions and goods-with women being among the symbols of wealth on show. It has a specific form which Veblen termed ‘conspicuous leisure’. He remarked that leisure itself, though costly, is invisible and offers no particular status advantage. In order to attract public admiration, leisure must be taken in ways that are both wasteful and highly visible-as for example casino gambling, or the use of expensive leisure products like resort clothes, sporting equipment, and the like, which signal wealth and status. Veblen's account is satirical and polemical, and has been criticized for conflating distinct elements of the élite, notably the landed gentry, bourgeoisie, and nouveaux riches.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.
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leisure, conspicuous — See leisure class … Dictionary of sociology
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