Friday, 7 September 2012

Part IV - The Leisure Class and Ownership

This is part of a series discussing The Theory of the Leisure Class, written by an American economist named Thorstein Veblen and published in 1899.  He calls his second chapter Pecuniary Emulation.   


 
Veblen says the emergence of a leisure class coincides with the beginning of ownership.  Before this cultural stage, individuals use or consume goods without specifically owning them.  As discussed in an earlier post, the distinctions between a leisure and a working class begin to appear in the lower stages of barbarism, the distinction being between the work of men and that of women. 

Likewise, Veblen claims the earliest form of ownership was ownership of the women by the able bodied men of the community, or more specifically a woman owned by a man.  This custom began with the seizure of female captives, initially as trophies, but this gave rise to a form of ownership-marriage, resulting in a household with a male head. 

Following on from this was an extension of slavery to other captives and inferiors besides women, and an extension of ownership-marriage to women other than those seized from the enemy.  The outcome of emulation under a predatory lifestyle has been therefore, a form of marriage based on coercion and the custom of ownership.
 
"Both arise from the desire of the successful men to put their prowess in evidence by exhibiting some durable result of their exploits.”
 
From owning women, then comes the idea to include owning other products of their exploits.
 
In the next post, we’ll talk about envy and self-esteem according to Veblen.

6 comments:

Beryl said...

I am finding this just fascinating. Interesting that he doesn't see these men as having ownership of the weapons that they took into the battle to capture and "own" the women.

Shelley said...

Beryl - I used all my imagination to try to follow what the heck this guy was saying, referring to every idiotic film I'd ever seen, Jane Austen novels and English Social History by GM Trevelyan, to name a few. I gather that Veblen thought communal ownership and usage was quite prevalent before men began to claim women. Perhaps back then, any sword would do? It's all his theory anyhow...

Carolyn said...

Unfortunately there are plenty of cultures still in the world today that see "owning" their womenfolk as normal and acceptable...
Thanks so much for your comment, and in reply; the patterns I use over and over (and over!) again are the basic staple silhouettes that may not be exciting or innovative in themselves but that can be altered or dressed up and down in a variety of ways. But I still like to branch out and play and experiment with the more crazy designs too!

Shelley said...

Carolyn - That's part of what made reading Veblen so fascinating, that even some of his most outrageous and shocking explanations had a ring of truth to them.

Terri said...

I guess intellectually I understand that marriage might initially have been a form of ownership, but emotionally mine does not feel that way.

The owning of people, ugh! But perhaps this explains how I'm being treated by administration at the college.

Susan Partlan said...

I'm following but finding the ideas difficult. Or maybe my brain is fried because I'm up to my ears in graduate studies :).