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MSR Veblen and Thorstein

MSR Veblen and Thorstein - University of Chicago B Major...

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MSR Lecture Notes May 11, 2010 Foster and Veblen: Theories about Economic Life I. George Foster: “Image of Limited Good” A. Anthropologist, formerly at UC Berkeley, died 2006 B. Studied social change in peasant society (Mexico and elsewhere), major project in Tzintzuntzan, town in Mexico C. Main idea: “Theory of the Image of Limited Good” 1. Good (wealth, health, status) is limited and unexpandable 2. All desired things (land, wealth, health, friendship, love, manliness and honor, respect and status, power and influence, security and safety) exist in finite quantity and are always in short supply 3. There is no way in peasants’ power to increase supply D. This is an integrating principle in the peasant society 1. Leads to general equality in group 2. “Steady state” economic pattern II. Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929): Theory of the Leisure Class A. Sociologist, Norwegian-American from Wisconsin, taught eventually at
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Unformatted text preview: University of Chicago B. Major work, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)-Famous phrase: “conspicuous consumption” C. Main ideas about the leisure class 1. Today’s (his time, ours?) society like primitive tribal life with division of labor: a. Higher status, those who go to war and hunt b. Inferior, do menial work: farming and cooking 2. This develops through conquest of one tribe over another, leading to: a. Ruling class – the “leisure class” b. Working class – those who labor to keep society going 3. Society never grew out of this stage: prime example with Medieval feudalism 4. “Conspicuous consumption” – waste money on extravagance to show higher status (buying brand-name items?) 5. “Conspicuous leisure” – pastimes such as philosophy, fine arts 6. Today’s business leaders?...
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MSR Veblen and Thorstein - University of Chicago B Major...

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