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.

2 comments:

Tabitha 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.