Monday, 6 August 2012

Odd Books

Just before heading for France for a month, I checked out the maximum number of books the library would allow (8), knowing I would have a lot of reading time.  I also still had a couple of e-books on my computer from March's trip to Australia, books I'd yet to finish.

The village of Bordeaux, in southeast France.

Reading Dickens' Little Dorrit at the same time that I chipped away at Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class:  An Economic Study of Institutions and re-read parts of American Woman's Home by Catherine E Beecher and Harriett Beecher Stowe, well, it was interesting.  Dickens' book is about extreme poverty and then extreme wealth; he doesn't seem to think money does much for a person's character.  Veblen wrote his book in 1899 and his theories about the influences of the leisure class are thought-provoking at the very least.  I would love to share bits of his book with you, but it is complicated.  I had to work hard to read the thing and I used the thesaurus a lot; it will take some doing to share bits, but I'm going to try to give it a go.  Veblen gave us the term 'conspicuous consumption'.  He also offers 'conspicuous leisure' and 'conspicuous waste' and a whole raft of examples which are part and parcel of everyday life.  He was American, but his book explained a lot to me about what I've heard about the class system here in Britain.  The Beechers' book, in sharp contrast, very much embraces frugality, along with a goodly helping of religion (another topic on which Veblen had interesting ideas). 

All three of these books are available on the Project Gutenberg website, if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

Oh I would love to read Veblen's book to see what he has to say, but if you as a regular reader found it a struggle, I doubt I'd wade through it as I barely read and have so little ability to concentrate these days.
I have a few friends with titles and they spend less than anyone else I know.

Carolyn said...

Since conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste are still with us today, i wonder how much we have actually learned since those times? I look forward to hearing your further thoughts on these books.