Social adaptation, selective adaptation, is not just something that occurs among individuals but also applies to institutions, a ‘…natural selection of the fittest habits of thought…’. Institutions are products of the past and therefore never quite in tune with current thinking. While they are shaped by prevailing attitudes, institutions also prevail upon people to change and so are in themselves shapers of society.
“The leisure class is the conservative class.”
- Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
- Traditional or restrained in style.
As my friend Vivien might say, there is Conservative with a capital C and conservative with a little c, except I think she talks about Politics and politics. I’ve forgotten and I’ll have to ask her about that again sometime. I'm still no expert on this, but I am assuming that Veblen's leisure class is both conservative by nature and Conservative in vote.
In any case, because the leisure class is not required to change their habits and views to suit the demands of an altered world, they are not fully part of the community in the same way as are the people who need to work to earn money.
Veblen goes on to say that not only is the leisure class the conservative class, in that
“The office of the leisure class in social evolution is to retard the [social] movement and to conserve what is obsolescent.”I don't know how well this statement might apply to the modern day wealthy class, though I suspect it probably does. One could say that the monarchy here is obsolescent. Regardless of how much one might admire the Queen, she doesn't rule, she reigns.
That institution started down the slippery slope of redundancy practically with the signing of the Magna Carta and certainly with the English Civil War (beheading of Charles I) and the Glorious Revolution (deposition of James II). The universal right to vote has gradually chipped away at the perquisites of land owners. (There isn't a lot of land here in Britain, so to own sizable bits is a definite hallmark of wealth) . More recently there has been the reform of the House of Lords; opposed, of course, by the Conservative Party.
Can you think of ways Veblen's statement applies to the leisure class of other countries?