Friday, 28 June 2013

Part XLV - Gambling, Sports and Religion

This is a series about a book, Theory of the Leisure Class, written by American economist Thorstein Veblen and published in 1899.   Chapter Twelve is titled Devout Observances.

I think I'm likely to repeat myself in explaining this chapter because Veblen repeats himself a lot.  I think we could both benefit from the red pen of a tough editor, but that's not going to happen.  

In the last post, I think we covered these ideas:  

X - Gambling is related to sports
X - Gambling is related to devout observances
X - Sports is related to devout observances

In addition to the YMCA, Veblen has concerns about other boys’ organisations of his day, which relate sports and religion.  He sees participation in sports by new, young members as a means of induction into the ‘life of spiritual status which is the privilege of the full communicant along’ and ‘acting to develop the emulative proclivity and the sense of status in the youthful members of the congregation’.  He calls them pseudo-military organizations and says they tend to 
‘accentuate the proclivity to emulation and invidious comparison, and so strengthen the native facility for discerning and approving the relation of personal mastery and subservience.’ 

There is something inherently accurate about his statement that ‘…a believer is eminently a person who knows how to obey and accept chastisement with good grace….’  This all does go hand in hand with the idea of knowing one’s place in a hierarchy. I can see how sport or religion relates to ‘a sense of personal dignity and relative standing of individuals’.  

Veblen says that the 
‘The spiritual attitude and the aptitudes imputed to the preternatural agent are still such as belong under the regime of status, but they now assume the patriarchal cast characteristic of the quasi-peaceable stage of culture.’  

I agree that most modern religions are patriarchal.  It would seem that with the ordination of women as vicars that this might change, but things don’t always work out in obvious ways, do they?

Another example of how gambling and religion are related for Veblen is in the ‘gambling practices of which the church bazaar or raffle may be taken as the type.’  He says that raffles seem to appeal more to members of religious organisations than to persons of a less devout habit of mind, being trivial opportunities for gambling.  I find this hilarious, as I’ve been asked to staff a table at the upcoming WI fair which will be a tombola (a form of raffle popular here in Britain), the prizes for which will be jam jars filled with candy.   This will all take place in the parish hall.  I do love Veblen, in spite of his writing style.  (Did I mention we have to wear 1950's outfits, the theme of the fair being 'a 1950's tea'?).


Beryl said...

I hope you put up a picture of your 1950's outfit. What fun! It would seem to me that the Lottery is just a giant raffle, which would make sense.

Gam Kau said...

I'm not one for gambling, sports or religion, but I can see the weave between them without too much of a stretch.