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The Theory of the Leisure Class* by Thorstein Veblen

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The Theory of the Leisure Class

by Thorstein Veblen

Chapter One


The institution of a leisure class is found in its best
development at the higher stages of the barbarian culture; as,
for instance, in feudal Europe or feudal Japan. In such
communities the distinction between classes is very rigorously
observed; and the feature of most striking economic significance
in these class differences is the distinction maintained between
the employments proper to the several classes. The upper classes
are by custom exempt or excluded from industrial occupations, and
are reserved for certain employments to which a degree of honour
attaches. Chief among the honourable employments in any feudal
community is warfare; and priestly service is commonly second to
warfare. If the barbarian community is not notably warlike, the
priestly office may take the precedence, with that of the warrior
second. But the rule holds with but slight exceptions that,
whether warriors or priests, the upper classes are exempt from
industrial employments, and this exemption is the economic
expression of their superior rank. Brahmin India affords a fair
illustration of the industrial exemption of both these classes.
In the communities belonging to the higher barbarian culture
there is a considerable differentiation of sub-classes within
what may be comprehensively called the leisure class; and there
is a corresponding differentiation of employments between these
sub-classes. The leisure class as a whole comprises the noble and
the priestly classes, together with much of their retinue. The
occupations of the class are correspondingly diversified; but
they have the common economic characteristic of being
non-industrial. These non-industrial upper-class occupations may
be roughly comprised under government, warfare, religious
observances, and sports.

At an earlier, but not the earliest, stage of barbarism, the
leisure class is found in a less differentiated form. Neither the
class distinctions nor the distinctions between leisure-class
occupations are so minute and intricate. The Polynesian islanders
generally show this stage of the development in good form, with
the exception that, owing to the absence of large game, hunting
does not hold the usual place of honour in their scheme of life.
The Icelandic community in the time of the Sagas also affords a
fair instance. In such a community there is a rigorous
distinction between classes and between the occupations peculiar
to each class. Manual labour, industry, whatever has to do
directly with the everyday work of getting a livelihood, is the
exclusive occupation of the inferior class. This inferior class
includes slaves and other dependents, and ordinarily also all the
women. If there are several grades of aristocracy, the women of
high rank are commonly exempt from industrial employment, or at
least from the more vulgar kinds of manual labour. The men of the
upper classes are not only exempt, but by prescriptive custom
they are debarred, from all industrial occupations. The range of
employments open to them is rigidly defined. As on the higher
plane already spoken of, these employments are government,
warfare, religious observances, and sports. These four lines of
activity govern the scheme of life of the upper classes, and for
the highest rank -- the kings or chieftains -- these are the only
kinds of activity that custom or the common sense of the
community will allow. Indeed, where the scheme is well developed
even sports are accounted doubtfully legitimate for the members
of the highest rank. To the lower grades of the leisure class
certain other employments are open, but they are employments that
are subsidiary to one or another of these typical leisure-class
occupations. Such are, for instance, the manufacture and care of
arms and accoutrements and of war canoes, the dressing and
handling of horses, dogs, and hawks, the preparation of sacred
apparatus, etc. The lower classes are excluded from these
secondary honourable employments, except from such as are plainly
of an industrial character and are only remotely related to the
typical leisure-class occupations.

If we go a step back of this exemplary barbarian culture, into
the lower stages of barbarism, we no longer find the leisure
class in fully developed form. But this lower barbarism shows the
usages, motives, and circumstances out of which the institution
of a leisure class has arisen, and indicates the steps of its
early growth. Nomadic hunting tribes in various parts of the
world illustrate these more primitive phases of the
differentiation. Any one of the North American hunting tribes may
be taken as a convenient illustration. These tribes can scarcely
be said to have a defined leisure class. There is a
differentiation of function, and there is a distinction between
classes on the basis of this difference of function, but the
exemption of the superior class from work has not gone far enough
to make the designation "leisure class" altogether applicable.
The tribes belonging on this economic level have carried the
economic differentiation to the point at which a marked
distinction is made between the occupations of men and women, and
this distinction is of an invidious character. In nearly all
these tribes the women are, by prescriptive custom, held to those
employments out of which the industrial occupations proper
develop at the next advance. The men are exempt from these vulgar
employments and are reserved for war, hunting, sports, and devout
observances. A very nice discrimination is ordinarily shown in
this matter.

This division of labour coincides with the distinction between
the working and the leisure class as it appears in the higher
barbarian culture. As the diversification and specialisation of
employments proceed, the line of demarcation so drawn comes to
divide the industrial from the non-industrial employments. The
man's occupation as it stands at the earlier barbarian stage is
not the original out of which any appreciable portion of later
industry has developed. In the later development it survives only
in employments that are not classed as industrial, -- war,
politics, sports, learning, and the priestly office. The only
notable exceptions are a portion of the fishery industry and
certain slight employments that are doubtfully to be classed as
industry; such as the manufacture of arms, toys, and sporting
goods. Virtually the whole range of industrial employments is an
outgrowth of what is classed as woman's work in the primitive
barbarian community.

The work of the men in the lower barbarian culture is no less
indispensable to the life of the group than the work done by the
women. It may even be that the men's work contributes as much to
the food supply and the other necessary consumption of the group.
Indeed, so obvious is this "productive" character of the men's
work that in the conventional economic writings the hunter's work
is taken as the type of primitive industry. But such is not the
barbarian's sense of the matter. In his own eyes he is not a
labourer, and he is not to be classed with the women in this
respect; nor is his effort to be classed with the women's
drudgery, as labour or industry, in such a sense as to admit of
its being confounded with the latter. There is in all barbarian
communities a profound sense of the disparity between man's and
woman's work. His work may conduce to the maintenance of the
group, but it is felt that it does so through an excellence and
an efficacy of a kind that cannot without derogation be compared
with the uneventful diligence of the women.

At a farther step backward in the cultural scale -- among savage
groups -- the differentiation of employments is still less
elaborate and the invidious distinction between classes and
employments is less consistent and less rigorous. Unequivocal
instances of a primitive savage culture are hard to find. Few of
these groups or communities that are classed as "savage" show no
traces of regression from a more advanced cultural stage. But
there are groups -- some of them apparently not the result of
retrogression -- which show the traits of primitive savagery with
some fidelity. Their culture differs from that of the barbarian
communities in the absence of a leisure class and the absence, in
great measure, of the animus or spiritual attitude on which the
institution of a leisure class rests. These communities of
primitive savages in which there is no hierarchy of economic
classes make up but a small and inconspicuous fraction of the
human race. As good an instance of this phase of culture as may
be had is afforded by the tribes of the Andamans, or by the Todas
of the Nilgiri Hills. The scheme of life of these groups at the
time of their earliest contact with Europeans seems to have been
nearly typical, so far as regards the absence of a leisure class.
As a further instance might be cited the Ainu of Yezo, and, more
doubtfully, also some Bushman and Eskimo groups. Some Pueblo
communities are less confidently to be included in the same
class. Most, if not all, of the communities here cited may well
be cases of degeneration from a higher barbarism, rather than
bearers of a culture that has never risen above its present
level. If so, they are for the present purpose to be taken with
the allowance, but they may serve none the less as evidence to
the same effect as if they were really "primitive" populations.

These communities that are without a defined leisure class
resemble one another also in certain other features of their
social structure and manner of life. They are small groups and of
a simple (archaic) structure; they are commonly peaceable and
sedentary; they are poor; and individual ownership is not a
dominant feature of their economic system. At the same time it
does not follow that these are the smallest of existing
communities, or that their social structure is in all respects
the least differentiated; nor does the class necessarily include
all primitive communities which have no defined system of
individual ownership. But it is to be noted that the class seems
to include the most peaceable -- perhaps all the
characteristically peaceable -- primitive groups of men. Indeed,
the most notable trait common to members of such communities is a
certain amiable inefficiency when confronted with force or fraud.

The evidence afforded by the usages and cultural traits of
communities at a low stage of development indicates that the
institution of a leisure class has emerged gradually during the
transition from primitive savagery to barbarism; or more
precisely, during the transition from a peaceable to a
consistently warlike habit of life. The conditions apparently
necessary to its emergence in a consistent form are: (1) the
community must be of a predatory habit of life (war or the
hunting of large game or both); that is to say, the men, who
constitute the inchoate leisure class in these cases, must be
habituated to the infliction of injury by force and stratagem;
(2) subsistence must be obtainable on sufficiently easy terms to
admit of the exemption of a considerable portion of the community
from steady application to a routine of labour. The institution
of leisure class is the outgrowth of an early discrimination
between employments, according to which some employments are
worthy and others unworthy. Under this ancient distinction the
worthy employments are those which may be classed as exploit;
unworthy are those necessary everyday employments into which no
appreciable element of exploit enters.

This distinction has but little obvious significance in a modern
industrial community, and it has, therefore, received but slight
attention at the hands of economic writers. When viewed in the
light of that modern common sense which has guided economic
discussion, it seems formal and insubstantial. But it persists
with great tenacity as a commonplace preconception even in modern
life, as is shown, for instance, by our habitual aversion to
menial employments. It is a distinction of a personal kind -- of
superiority and inferiority. In the earlier stages of culture,
when the personal force of the individual counted more
immediately and obviously in shaping the course of events, the
element of exploit counted for more in the everyday scheme of
life. Interest centred about this fact to a greater degree.
Consequently a distinction proceeding on this ground seemed more
imperative and more definitive then than is the case to-day. As a
fact in the sequence of development, therefore, the distinction
is a substantial one and rests on sufficiently valid and cogent

The ground on which a discrimination between facts is habitually
made changes as the interest from which the facts are habitually
viewed changes. Those features of the facts at hand are salient
and substantial upon which the dominant interest of the time
throws its light. Any given ground of distinction will seem
insubstantial to any one who habitually apprehends the facts in
question from a different point of view and values them for a
different purpose. The habit of distinguishing and classifying
the various purposes and directions of activity prevails of
necessity always and everywhere; for it is indispensable in
reaching a working theory or scheme of life. The particular point
of view, or the particular characteristic that is pitched upon as
definitive in the classification of the facts of life depends
upon the interest from which a discrimination of the facts is
sought. The grounds of discrimination, and the norm of procedure
in classifying the facts, therefore, progressively change as the
growth of culture proceeds; for the end for which the facts of
life are apprehended changes, and the point of view consequently
changes also. So that what are recognised as the salient and
decisive features of a class of activities or of a social class
at one stage of culture will not retain the same relative
importance for the purposes of classification at any subsequent

But the change of standards and points of view is gradual only,
and it seldom results in the subversion or entire suppression of
a standpoint once accepted. A distinction is still habitually
made between industrial and non-industrial occupations; and this
modern distinction is a transmuted form of the barbarian
distinction between exploit and drudgery. Such employments as
warfare, politics, public worship, and public merrymaking, are
felt, in the popular apprehension, to differ intrinsically from
the labour that has to do with elaborating the material means of
life. The precise line of demarcation is not the same as it was
in the early barbarian scheme, but the broad distinction has not
fallen into disuse.

The tacit, common-sense distinction to-day is, in effect, that
any effort is to be accounted industrial only so far as its
ultimate purpose is the utilisation of non-human things. The
coercive utilisation of man by man is not felt to be an
industrial function; but all effort directed to enhance human
life by taking advantage of the non-human environment is classed
together as industrial activity. By the economists who have best
retained and adapted the classical tradition, man's "power over
nature" is currently postulated as the characteristic fact of
industrial productivity. This industrial power over nature is
taken to include man's power over the life of the beasts and over
all the elemental forces. A line is in this way drawn between
mankind and brute creation.

In other times and among men imbued with a different body of
preconceptions this line is not drawn precisely as we draw it
to-day. In the savage or the barbarian scheme of life it is drawn
in a different place and in another way. In all communities under
the barbarian culture there is an alert and pervading sense of
antithesis between two comprehensive groups of phenomena, in one
of which barbarian man includes himself, and in the other, his
victual. There is a felt antithesis between economic and
non-economic phenomena, but it is not conceived in the modern
fashion; it lies not between man and brute creation, but between
animate and inert things.

It may be an excess of caution at this day to explain that the
barbarian notion which it is here intended to convey by the term
"animate" is not the same as would be conveyed by the word
"living". The term does not cover all living things, and it does
cover a great many others. Such a striking natural phenomenon as
a storm, a disease, a waterfall, are recognised as "animate";
while fruits and herbs, and even inconspicuous animals, such as
house-flies, maggots, lemmings, sheep, are not ordinarily
apprehended as "animate" except when taken collectively. As here
used the term does not necessarily imply an indwelling soul or
spirit. The concept includes such things as in the apprehension
of the animistic savage or barbarian are formidable by virtue of
a real or imputed habit of initiating action. This category
comprises a large number and range of natural objects and
phenomena. Such a distinction between the inert and the active is
still present in the habits of thought of unreflecting persons,
and it still profoundly affects the prevalent theory of human
life and of natural processes; but it does not pervade our daily
life to the extent or with the far-reaching practical
consequences that are apparent at earlier stages of culture and

To the mind of the barbarian, the elaboration and utilisation of
what is afforded by inert nature is activity on quite a different
plane from his dealings with "animate" things and forces. The
line of demarcation may be vague and shifting, but the broad
distinction is sufficiently real and cogent to influence the
barbarian scheme of life. To the class of things apprehended as
animate, the barbarian fancy imputes an unfolding of activity
directed to some end. It is this teleological unfolding of
activity that constitutes any object or phenomenon an "animate"
fact. Wherever the unsophisticated savage or barbarian meets with
activity that is at all obtrusive, he construes it in the only
terms that are ready to hand -- the terms immediately given in
his consciousness of his own actions. Activity is, therefore,
assimilated to human action, and active objects are in so far
assimilated to the human agent. Phenomena of this character --
especially those whose behaviour is notably formidable or
baffling -- have to be met in a different spirit and with
proficiency of a different kind from what is required in dealing
with inert things. To deal successfully with such phenomena is a
work of exploit rather than of industry. It is an assertion of
prowess, not of diligence.

Under the guidance of this naive discrimination between the inert
and the animate, the activities of the primitive social group
tend to fall into two classes, which would in modern phrase be
called exploit and industry. Industry is effort that goes to
create a new thing, with a new purpose given it by the fashioning
hand of its maker out of passive ("brute") material; while
exploit, so far as it results in an outcome useful to the agent,
is the conversion to his own ends of energies previously directed
to some other end by an other agent. We still speak of "brute
matter" with something of the barbarian's realisation of a
profound significance in the term.

The distinction between exploit and drudgery coincides with a
difference between the sexes. The sexes differ, not only in
stature and muscular force, but perhaps even more decisively in
temperament, and this must early have given rise to a
corresponding division of labour. The general range of activities
that come under the head of exploit falls to the males as being
the stouter, more massive, better capable of a sudden and violent
strain, and more readily inclined to self assertion, active
emulation, and aggression. The difference in mass, in
physiological character, and in temperament may be slight among
the members of the primitive group; it appears, in fact, to be
relatively slight and inconsequential in some of the more archaic
communities with which we are acquainted -- as for instance the
tribes of the Andamans. But so soon as a differentiation of
function has well begun on the lines marked out by this
difference in physique and animus, the original difference
between the sexes will itself widen. A cumulative process of
selective adaptation to the new distribution of employments will
set in, especially if the habitat or the fauna with which the
group is in contact is such as to call for a considerable
exercise of the sturdier virtues. The habitual pursuit of large
game requires more of the manly qualities of massiveness,
agility, and ferocity, and it can therefore scarcely fail to
hasten and widen the differentiation of functions between the
sexes. And so soon as the group comes into hostile contact with
other groups, the divergence of function will take on the
developed form of a distinction between exploit and industry.

In such a predatory group of hunters it comes to be the
able-bodied men's office to fight and hunt. The women do what
other work there is to do -- other members who are unfit for
man's work being for this purpose classed with women. But the
men's hunting and fighting are both of the same general
character. Both are of a predatory nature; the warrior and the
hunter alike reap where they have not strewn. Their aggressive
assertion of force and sagacity differs obviously from the
women's assiduous and uneventful shaping of materials; it is not
to be accounted productive labour but rather an acquisition of
substance by seizure. Such being the barbarian man's work, in its
best development and widest divergence from women's work, any
effort that does not involve an assertion of prowess comes to be
unworthy of the man. As the tradition gains consistency, the
common sense of the community erects it into a canon of conduct;
so that no employment and no acquisition is morally possible to
the self respecting man at this cultural stage, except such as
proceeds on the basis of prowess -- force or fraud. When the
predatory habit of life has been settled upon the group by long
habituation, it becomes the able-bodied man's accredited office
in the social economy to kill, to destroy such competitors in the
struggle for existence as attempt to resist or elude him, to
overcome and reduce to subservience those alien forces that
assert themselves refractorily in the environment. So tenaciously
and with such nicety is this theoretical distinction between
exploit and drudgery adhered to that in many hunting tribes the
man must not bring home the game which he has killed, but must
send his woman to perform that baser office.

As has already been indicated, the distinction between exploit
and drudgery is an invidious distinction between employments.
Those employments which are to be classed as exploit are worthy,
honourable, noble; other employments, which do not contain this
element of exploit, and especially those which imply subservience
or submission, are unworthy, debasing, ignoble. The concept of
dignity, worth, or honour, as applied either to persons or
conduct, is of first-rate consequence in the development of
classes and of class distinctions, and it is therefore necessary
to say something of its derivation and meaning. Its psychological
ground may be indicated in outline as follows.

As a matter of selective necessity, man is an agent. He is, in
his own apprehension, a centre of unfolding impulsive activity --
"teleological" activity. He is an agent seeking in every act the
accomplishment of some concrete, objective, impersonal end. By
force of his being such an agent he is possessed of a taste for
effective work, and a distaste for futile effort. He has a sense
of the merit of serviceability or efficiency and of the demerit
of futility, waste, or incapacity. This aptitude or propensity
may be called the instinct of workmanship. Wherever the
circumstances or traditions of life lead to an habitual
comparison of one person with another in point of efficiency, the
instinct of workmanship works out in an emulative or invidious
comparison of persons. The extent to which this result follows
depends in some considerable degree on the temperament of the
population. In any community where such an invidious comparison
of persons is habitually made, visible success becomes an end
sought for its own utility as a basis of esteem. Esteem is gained
and dispraise is avoided by putting one's efficiency in evidence.
The result is that the instinct of workmanship works out in an
emulative demonstration of force.

During that primitive phase of social development, when the
community is still habitually peaceable, perhaps sedentary, and
without a developed system of individual ownership, the
efficiency of the individual can be shown chiefly and most
consistently in some employment that goes to further the life of
the group. What emulation of an economic kind there is between
the members of such a group will be chiefly emulation in
industrial serviceability. At the same time the incentive to
emulation is not strong, nor is the scope for emulation large.

When the community passes from peaceable savagery to a predatory
phase of life, the conditions of emulation change. The
opportunity and the incentive to emulate increase greatly in
scope and urgency. The activity of the men more and more takes on
the character of exploit; and an invidious comparison of one
hunter or warrior with another grows continually easier and more
habitual. Tangible evidences of prowess -- trophies -- find a
place in men's habits of thought as an essential feature of the
paraphernalia of life. Booty, trophies of the chase or of the
raid, come to be prized as evidence of pre-eminent force.
Aggression becomes the accredited form of action, and booty
serves as prima facie evidence of successful aggression. As
accepted at this cultural stage, the accredited, worthy form of
self-assertion is contest; and useful articles or services
obtained by seizure or compulsion, serve as a conventional
evidence of successful contest. Therefore, by contrast, the
obtaining of goods by other methods than seizure comes to be
accounted unworthy of man in his best estate. The performance of
productive work, or employment in personal service, falls under
the same odium for the same reason. An invidious distinction in
this way arises between exploit and acquisition on the other
hand. Labour acquires a character of irksomeness by virtue of the
indignity imputed to it.

With the primitive barbarian, before the simple content of the
notion has been obscured by its own ramifications and by a
secondary growth of cognate ideas, "honourable" seems to connote
nothing else than assertion of superior force. "Honourable" is
"formidable"; "worthy" is "prepotent". A honorific act is in the
last analysis little if anything else than a recognised
successful act of aggression; and where aggression means conflict
with men and beasts, the activity which comes to be especially
and primarily honourable is the assertion of the strong hand. The
naive, archaic habit of construing all manifestations of force in
terms of personality or "will power" greatly fortifies this
conventional exaltation of the strong hand. Honorific epithets,
in vogue among barbarian tribes as well as among peoples of a
more advance culture, commonly bear the stamp of this
unsophisticated sense of honour. Epithets and titles used in
addressing chieftains, and in the propitiation of kings and gods,
very commonly impute a propensity for overbearing violence and an
irresistible devastating force to the person who is to be
propitiated. This holds true to an extent also in the more
civilised communities of the present day. The predilection shown
in heraldic devices for the more rapacious beasts and birds of
prey goes to enforce the same view.

Under this common-sense barbarian appreciation of worth or
honour, the taking of life -- the killing of formidable
competitors, whether brute or human -- is honourable in the
highest degree. And this high office of slaughter, as an
expression of the slayer's prepotence, casts a glamour of worth
over every act of slaughter and over all the tools and
accessories of the act. Arms are honourable, and the use of them,
even in seeking the life of the meanest creatures of the fields,
becomes a honorific employment. At the same time, employment in
industry becomes correspondingly odious, and, in the common-sense
apprehension, the handling of the tools and implements of
industry falls beneath the dignity of able-bodied men. Labour
becomes irksome.

It is here assumed that in the sequence of cultural
evolution primitive groups of men have passed from an initial
peaceable stage to a subsequent stage at which fighting is the
avowed and characteristic employment of the group. But it is not
implied that there has been an abrupt transition from unbroken
peace and good-will to a later or higher phase of life in which
the fact of combat occurs for the first time. Neither is it
implied that all peaceful industry disappears on the transition
to the predatory phase of culture. Some fighting, it is safe to
say, would be met with at any early stage of social development.
Fights would occur with more or less frequency through sexual
competition. The known habits of primitive groups, as well as the
habits of the anthropoid apes, argue to that effect, and the
evidence from the well-known promptings of human nature enforces
the same view.

It may therefore be objected that there can have been no such initial
stage of peaceable life as is here assumed. There is no point in
cultural evolution prior to which fighting does not occur. But the
point in question is not as to the occurrence of combat, occasional or
sporadic, or even more or less frequent and habitual; it is a question
as to the occurrence of an habitual; it is a question as to the
occurrence of an habitual bellicose frame of mind -- a prevalent habit
of judging facts and events from the point of view of the fight. The
predatory phase of culture is attained only when the predatory
attitude has become the habitual and accredited spiritual attitude for
the members of the group; when the fight has become the dominant note
in the current theory of life; when the common-sense appreciation of
men and things has come to be an appreciation with a view to combat.

The substantial difference between the peaceable and the
predatory phase of culture, therefore, is a spiritual difference,
not a mechanical one. The change in spiritual attitude is the
outgrowth of a change in the material facts of the life of the
group, and it comes on gradually as the material circumstances
favourable to a predatory attitude supervene. The inferior limit
of the predatory culture is an industrial limit. Predation can
not become the habitual, conventional resource of any group or
any class until industrial methods have been developed to such a
degree of efficiency as to leave a margin worth fighting for,
above the subsistence of those engaged in getting a living. The
transition from peace to predation therefore depends on the
growth of technical knowledge and the use of tools. A predatory
culture is similarly impracticable in early times, until weapons
have been developed to such a point as to make man a formidable
animal. The early development of tools and of weapons is of
course the same fact seen from two different points of view.

The life of a given group would be characterised as
peaceable so long as habitual recourse to combat has not brought
the fight into the foreground in men's every day thoughts, as a
dominant feature of the life of man. A group may evidently attain
such a predatory attitude with a greater or less degree of
completeness, so that its scheme of life and canons of conduct
may be controlled to a greater or less extent by the predatory
animus. The predatory phase of culture is therefore conceived to
come on gradually, through a cumulative growth of predatory
aptitudes habits, and traditions this growth being due to a
change in the circumstances of the group's life, of such a kind
as to develop and conserve those traits of human nature and those
traditions and norms of conduct that make for a predatory rather
than a peaceable life.

The evidence for the hypothesis that there has been such a
peaceable stage of primitive culture is in great part drawn from
psychology rather than from ethnology, and cannot be detailed
here. It will be recited in part in a later chapter, in
discussing the survival of archaic traits of human nature under
the modern culture.

Chapter Two

Pecuniary Emulation

In the sequence of cultural evolution the emergence of a leisure
class coincides with the beginning of ownership. This is
necessarily the case, for these two institutions result from the
same set of economic forces. In the inchoate phase of their
development they are but different aspects of the same general
facts of social structure.

It is as elements of social structure -- conventional facts --
that leisure and ownership are matters of interest for the
purpose in hand. An habitual neglect of work does not constitute
a leisure class; neither does the mechanical fact of use and
consumption constitute ownership. The present inquiry, therefore,
is not concerned with the beginning of indolence, nor with the
beginning of the appropriation of useful articles to individual
consumption. The point in question is the origin and nature of a
conventional leisure class on the one hand and the beginnings of
individual ownership as a conventional right or equitable claim
on the other hand.

The early differentiation out of which the distinction between a
leisure and a working class arises is a division maintained
between men's and women's work in the lower stages of barbarism.
Likewise the earliest form of ownership is an
ownership of the women by the able bodied men of the community.
The facts may be expressed in more general terms, and truer to
the import of the barbarian theory of life, by saying that it is
an ownership of the woman by the man.

There was undoubtedly some appropriation of useful articles
before the custom of appropriating women arose. The usages of
existing archaic communities in which there is no ownership of
women is warrant for such a view. In all communities the members,
both male and female, habitually appropriate to their individual
use a variety of useful things; but these useful things are not
thought of as owned by the person who appropriates and consumes
them. The habitual appropriation and consumption of certain
slight personal effects goes on without raising the question of
ownership; that is to say, the question of a conventional,
equitable claim to extraneous things.

The ownership of women begins in the lower barbarian stages of
culture, apparently with the seizure of female captives. The
original reason for the seizure and appropriation of women seems
to have been their usefulness as trophies. The practice of
seizing women from the enemy as trophies, gave rise to a form of
ownership-marriage, resulting in a household with a male head.
This was followed by an extension of slavery to other captives
and inferiors, besides women, and by an extension of
ownership-marriage to other women than those seized from the
enemy. The outcome of emulation under the circumstances of a
predatory life, therefore, has been on the one hand a form of
marriage resting on coercion, and on the other hand the custom of
ownership. The two institutions are not distinguishable in the
initial phase of their development; both arise from the desire of
the successful men to put their prowess in evidence by exhibiting
some durable result of their exploits. Both also minister to that
propensity for mastery which pervades all predatory communities.
From the ownership of women the concept of ownership extends
itself to include the products of their industry, and so there
arises the ownership of things as well as of persons.

In this way a consistent system of property in goods is gradually
installed. And although in the latest stages of the development,
the serviceability of goods for consumption has come to be the
most obtrusive element of their value, still, wealth has by no
means yet lost its utility as a honorific evidence of the owner's

Wherever the institution of private property is found, even in a
slightly developed form, the economic process bears the character
of a struggle between men for the possession of goods. It has
been customary in economic theory, and especially among those
economists who adhere with least faltering to the body of
modernised classical doctrines, to construe this struggle for
wealth as being substantially a struggle for subsistence. Such
is, no doubt, its character in large part during the earlier and
less efficient phases of industry. Such is also its character in
all cases where the "niggardliness of nature" is so strict as to
afford but a scanty livelihood to the community in return for
strenuous and unremitting application to the business of getting
the means of subsistence. But in all progressing communities an
advance is presently made beyond this early stage of
technological development. Industrial efficiency is presently
carried to such a pitch as to afford something appreciably more
than a bare livelihood to those engaged in the industrial
process. It has not been unusual for economic theory to speak of
the further struggle for wealth on this new industrial basis as a
competition for an increase of the comforts of life, -- primarily
for an increase of the physical comforts which the consumption of
goods affords.

The end of acquisition and accumulation is conventionally held to
be the consumption of the goods accumulated -- whether it is
consumption directly by the owner of the goods or by the
household attached to him and for this purpose identified with
him in theory. This is at least felt to be the economically
legitimate end of acquisition, which alone it is incumbent on the
theory to take account of. Such consumption may of course be
conceived to serve the consumer's physical wants -- his physical
comfort -- or his so-called higher wants -- spiritual, aesthetic,
intellectual, or what not; the latter class of wants being served
indirectly by an expenditure of goods, after the fashion familiar
to all economic readers.

But it is only when taken in a sense far removed from its naive
meaning that consumption of goods can be said to afford the
incentive from which accumulation invariably proceeds. The motive
that lies at the root of ownership is emulation; and the same
motive of emulation continues active in the further development
of the institution to which it has given rise and in the
development of all those features of the social structure which
this institution of ownership touches. The possession of wealth
confers honour; it is an invidious distinction. Nothing equally
cogent can be said for the consumption of goods, nor for any
other conceivable incentive to acquisition, and especially not
for any incentive to accumulation of wealth.

It is of course not to be overlooked that in a community where
nearly all goods are private property the necessity of earning a
livelihood is a powerful and ever present incentive for the
poorer members of the community. The need of subsistence and of
an increase of physical comfort may for a time be the dominant
motive of acquisition for those classes who are habitually
employed at manual labour, whose subsistence is on a precarious
footing, who possess little and ordinarily accumulate little; but
it will appear in the course of the discussion that even in the
case of these impecunious classes the predominance of the motive
of physical want is not so decided as has sometimes been assumed.
On the other hand, so far as regards those members and classes of
the community who are chiefly concerned in the accumulation of
wealth, the incentive of subsistence or of physical comfort never
plays a considerable part. Ownership began and grew into a human
institution on grounds unrelated to the subsistence minimum. The
dominant incentive was from the outset the invidious distinction
attaching to wealth, and, save temporarily and by exception, no
other motive has usurped the primacy at any later stage of the

Property set out with being booty held as trophies of the
successful raid. So long as the group had departed and so long as
it still stood in close contact with other hostile groups, the
utility of things or persons owned lay chiefly in an invidious
comparison between their possessor and the enemy from whom they
were taken. The habit of distinguishing between the interests of
the individual and those of the group to which he belongs is
apparently a later growth. Invidious comparison between the
possessor of the honorific booty and his less successful
neighbours within the group was no doubt present early as an
element of the utility of the things possessed, though this was
not at the outset the chief element of their value. The man's
prowess was still primarily the group's prowess, and the
possessor of the booty felt himself to be primarily the keeper of
the honour of his group. This appreciation of exploit from the
communal point of view is met with also at later stages of social
growth, especially as regards the laurels of war.

But as soon as the custom of individual ownership begins to gain
consistency, the point of view taken in making the invidious
comparison on which private property rests will begin to change.
Indeed, the one change is but the reflex of the other. The
initial phase of ownership, the phase of acquisition by naive
seizure and conversion, begins to pass into the subsequent stage
of an incipient organization of industry on the basis of private
property (in slaves); the horde develops into a more or less
self-sufficing industrial community; possessions then come to be
valued not so much as evidence of successful foray, but rather as
evidence of the prepotence of the possessor of these goods over
other individuals within the community. The invidious comparison
now becomes primarily a comparison of the owner with the other
members of the group. Property is still of the nature of trophy,
but, with the cultural advance, it becomes more and more a trophy
of successes scored in the game of ownership carried on between
the members of the group under the quasi-peaceable methods of
nomadic life.

Gradually, as industrial activity further displaced
predatory activity in the community's everyday life and in men's
habits of thought, accumulated property more and more replaces
trophies of predatory exploit as the conventional exponent of
prepotence and success. With the growth of settled industry,
therefore, the possession of wealth gains in relative importance
and effectiveness as a customary basis of repute and esteem. Not
that esteem ceases to be awarded on the basis of other, more
direct evidence of prowess; not that successful predatory
aggression or warlike exploit ceases to call out the approval and
admiration of the crowd, or to stir the envy of the less
successful competitors; but the opportunities for gaining
distinction by means of this direct manifestation of superior
force grow less available both in scope and frequency. At the
same time opportunities for industrial aggression, and for the
accumulation of property, increase in scope and availability. And
it is even more to the point that property now becomes the most
easily recognised evidence of a reputable degree of success as
distinguished from heroic or signal achievement. It therefore
becomes the conventional basis of esteem. Its possession in some
amount becomes necessary in order to any reputable standing in
the community. It becomes indispensable to accumulate, to acquire
property, in order to retain one's good name. When accumulated
goods have in this way once become the accepted badge of
efficiency, the possession of wealth presently assumes the
character of an independent and definitive basis of esteem. The
possession of goods, whether acquired aggressively by one's own
exertion or passively by transmission through inheritance from
others, becomes a conventional basis of reputability. The
possession of wealth, which was at the outset valued simply as an
evidence of efficiency, becomes, in popular apprehension, itself
a meritorious act. Wealth is now itself intrinsically honourable
and confers honour on its possessor. By a further refinement,
wealth acquired passively by transmission from ancestors or other
antecedents presently becomes even more honorific than wealth
acquired by the possessor's own effort; but this distinction
belongs at a later stage in the evolution of the pecuniary
culture and will be spoken of in its place.

Prowess and exploit may still remain the basis of award of the
highest popular esteem, although the possession of wealth has
become the basis of common place reputability and of a blameless
social standing. The predatory instinct and the consequent
approbation of predatory efficiency are deeply ingrained in the
habits of thought of those peoples who have passed under the
discipline of a protracted predatory culture. According to
popular award, the highest honours within human reach may, even
yet, be those gained by an unfolding of extraordinary predatory
efficiency in war, or by a quasi-predatory efficiency in
statecraft; but for the purposes of a commonplace decent standing
in the community these means of repute have been replaced by the
acquisition and accumulation of goods. In order to stand well in
the eyes of the community, it is necessary to come up to a
certain, somewhat indefinite, conventional standard of wealth;
just as in the earlier predatory stage it is necessary for the
barbarian man to come up to the tribe's standard of physical
endurance, cunning, and skill at arms. A certain standard of
wealth in the one case, and of prowess in the other, is a
necessary condition of reputability, and anything in excess of
this normal amount is meritorious.

Those members of the community who fall short of this, somewhat
indefinite, normal degree of prowess or of property suffer in the
esteem of their fellow-men; and consequently they suffer also in
their own esteem, since the usual basis of self-respect is the
respect accorded by one's neighbours. Only individuals with an
aberrant temperament can in the long run retain their self-esteem
in the face of the disesteem of their fellows. Apparent
exceptions to the rule are met with, especially among people with
strong religious convictions. But these apparent exceptions are
scarcely real exceptions, since such persons commonly fall back
on the putative approbation of some supernatural witness of their

So soon as the possession of property becomes the basis of
popular esteem, therefore, it becomes also a requisite to the
complacency which we call self-respect. In any community where
goods are held in severalty it is necessary, in order to his own
peace of mind, that an individual should possess as large a
portion of goods as others with whom he is accustomed to class
himself; and it is extremely gratifying to possess something more
than others. But as fast as a person makes new acquisitions, and
becomes accustomed to the resulting new standard of wealth, the
new standard forthwith ceases to afford appreciably greater
satisfaction than the earlier standard did. The tendency in any
case is constantly to make the present pecuniary standard the
point of departure for a fresh increase of wealth; and this in
turn gives rise to a new standard of sufficiency and a new
pecuniary classification of one's self as compared with one's
neighbours. So far as concerns the present question, the end
sought by accumulation is to rank high in comparison with the
rest of the community in point of pecuniary strength. So long as
the comparison is distinctly unfavourable to himself, the normal,
average individual will live in chronic dissatisfaction with his
present lot; and when he has reached what may be called the
normal pecuniary standard of the community, or of his class in
the community, this chronic dissatisfaction will give place to a
restless straining to place a wider and ever-widening pecuniary
interval between himself and this average standard. The invidious
comparison can never become so favourable to the individual
making it that he would not gladly rate himself still higher
relatively to his competitors in the struggle for pecuniary

In the nature of the case, the desire for wealth can scarcely be
satiated in any individual instance, and evidently a satiation of
the average or general desire for wealth is out of the question.
However widely, or equally, or "fairly", it may be distributed,
no general increase of the community's wealth can make any
approach to satiating this need, the ground of which approach to
satiating this need, the ground of which is the desire of every
one to excel every one else in the accumulation of goods. If, as
is sometimes assumed, the incentive to accumulation were the want
of subsistence or of physical comfort, then the aggregate
economic wants of a community might conceivably be satisfied at
some point in the advance of industrial efficiency; but since the
struggle is substantially a race for reputability on the basis of
an invidious comparison, no approach to a definitive attainment
is possible.

What has just been said must not be taken to mean that there are
no other incentives to acquisition and accumulation than this
desire to excel in pecuniary standing and so gain the esteem and
envy of one's fellow-men. The desire for added comfort and
security from want is present as a motive at every stage of the
process of accumulation in a modern industrial community;
although the standard of sufficiency in these respects is in turn
greatly affected by the habit of pecuniary emulation. To a great
extent this emulation shapes the methods and selects the objects
of expenditure for personal comfort and decent livelihood.

Besides this, the power conferred by wealth also affords a motive
to accumulation. That propensity for purposeful activity and that
repugnance to all futility of effort which belong to man by
virtue of his character as an agent do not desert him when he
emerges from the naive communal culture where the dominant note
of life is the unanalysed and undifferentiated solidarity of the
individual with the group with which his life is bound up. When
he enters upon the predatory stage, where self-seeking in the
narrower sense becomes the dominant note, this propensity goes
with him still, as the pervasive trait that shapes his scheme of
life. The propensity for achievement and the repugnance to
futility remain the underlying economic motive. The propensity
changes only in the form of its expression and in the proximate
objects to which it directs the man's activity. Under the regime
of individual ownership the most available means of visibly
achieving a purpose is that afforded by the acquisition and
accumulation of goods; and as the self-regarding antithesis
between man and man reaches fuller consciousness, the propensity
for achievement -- the instinct of workmanship -- tends more and
more to shape itself into a straining to excel others in
pecuniary achievement. Relative success, tested by an invidious
pecuniary comparison with other men, becomes the conventional end
of action. The currently accepted legitimate end of effort
becomes the achievement of a favourable comparison with other
men; and therefore the repugnance to futility to a good extent
coalesces with the incentive of emulation. It acts to accentuate
the struggle for pecuniary reputability by visiting with a
sharper disapproval all shortcoming and all evidence of
shortcoming in point of pecuniary success. Purposeful effort
comes to mean, primarily, effort directed to or resulting in a
more creditable showing of accumulated wealth. Among the motives
which lead men to accumulate wealth, the primacy, both in scope
and intensity, therefore, continues to belong to this motive of
pecuniary emulation.

In making use of the term "invidious", it may perhaps be
unnecessary to remark, there is no intention to extol or
depreciate, or to commend or deplore any of the phenomena which
the word is used to characterise. The term is used in a technical
sense as describing a comparison of persons with a view to rating
and grading them in respect of relative worth or value -- in an
aesthetic or moral sense -- and so awarding and defining the
relative degrees of complacency with which they may legitimately
be contemplated by themselves and by others. An invidious
comparison is a process of valuation of persons in respect of

Chapter Three

Conspicuous Leisure

If its working were not disturbed by other economic forces or
other features of the emulative process, the immediate effect of
such a pecuniary struggle as has just been described in outline
would be to make men industrious and frugal. This result actually
follows, in some measure, so far as regards the lower classes,
whose ordinary means of acquiring goods is productive labour.
This is more especially true of the labouring classes in a
sedentary community which is at an agricultural stage of
industry, in which there is a considerable subdivision of
industry, and whose laws and customs secure to these classes a
more or less definite share of the product of their industry.
These lower classes can in any case not avoid labour, and the
imputation of labour is therefore not greatly derogatory to them,
at least not within their class. Rather, since labour is their
recognised and accepted mode of life, they take some emulative
pride in a reputation for efficiency in their work, this being
often the only line of emulation that is open to them. For those
for whom acquisition and emulation is possible only within the
field of productive efficiency and thrift, the struggle for
pecuniary reputability will in some measure work out in an
increase of diligence and parsimony. But certain secondary
features of the emulative process, yet to be spoken of, come in
to very materially circumscribe and modify emulation in these
directions among the pecuniary inferior classes as well as among
the superior class.

But it is otherwise with the superior pecuniary class, with which
we are here immediately concerned. For this class also the
incentive to diligence and thrift is not absent; but its action
is so greatly qualified by the secondary demands of pecuniary
emulation, that any inclination in this direction is practically
overborne and any incentive to diligence tends to be of no
effect. The most imperative of these secondary demands of
emulation, as well as the one of widest scope, is the requirement
of abstention from productive work. This is true in an especial
degree for the barbarian stage of culture. During the predatory
culture labour comes to be associated in men's habits of thought
with weakness and subjection to a master. It is therefore a mark
of inferiority, and therefore comes to be accounted unworthy of
man in his best estate. By virtue of this tradition labour is
felt to be debasing, and this tradition has never died out. On
the contrary, with the advance of social differentiation it has
acquired the axiomatic force due to ancient and unquestioned

In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not
sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power
must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence.
And not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's
importance on others and to keep their sense of his importance
alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up
and preserving one's self-complacency. In all but the lowest
stages of culture the normally constituted man is comforted and
upheld in his self-respect by "decent surroundings" and by
exemption from "menial offices". Enforced departure from his
habitual standard of decency, either in the paraphernalia of life
or in the kind and amount of his everyday activity, is felt to be
a slight upon his human dignity, even apart from all conscious
consideration of the approval or disapproval of his fellows.

The archaic theoretical distinction between the base and the
honourable in the manner of a man's life retains very much of its
ancient force even today. So much so that there are few of the
better class who are no possessed of an instinctive repugnance
for the vulgar forms of labour. We have a realising sense of
ceremonial uncleanness attaching in an especial degree to the
occupations which are associated in our habits of thought with
menial service. It is felt by all persons of refined taste that a
spiritual contamination is inseparable from certain offices that
are conventionally required of servants. Vulgar surroundings,
mean (that is to say, inexpensive) habitations, and vulgarly
productive occupations are unhesitatingly condemned and avoided.
They are incompatible with life on a satisfactory spiritual plane
__ with "high thinking". From the days of the Greek philosophers
to the present, a degree of leisure and of exemption from contact
with such industrial processes as serve the immediate everyday
purposes of human life has ever been recognised by thoughtful men
as a prerequisite to a worthy or beautiful, or even a blameless,
human life. In itself and in its consequences the life of leisure
is beautiful and ennobling in all civilised men's eyes.

This direct, subjective value of leisure and of other evidences
of wealth is no doubt in great part secondary and derivative. It
is in part a reflex of the utility of leisure as a means of
gaining the respect of others, and in part it is the result of a
mental substitution. The performance of labour has been accepted
as a conventional evidence of inferior force; therefore it comes
itself, by a mental short-cut, to be regarded as intrinsically

During the predatory stage proper, and especially during the
earlier stages of the quasi-peaceable development of industry
that follows the predatory stage, a life of leisure is the
readiest and most conclusive evidence of pecuniary strength, and
therefore of superior force; provided always that the gentleman
of leisure can live in manifest ease and comfort. At this stage
wealth consists chiefly of slaves, and the benefits accruing from
the possession of riches and power take the form chiefly of
personal service and the immediate products of personal service.
Conspicuous abstention from labour therefore becomes the
conventional mark of superior pecuniary achievement and the
conventional index of reputability; and conversely, since
application to productive labour is a mark of poverty and
subjection, it becomes inconsistent with a reputable standing in
the community. Habits of industry and thrift, therefore, are not
uniformly furthered by a prevailing pecuniary emulation. On the
contrary, this kind of emulation indirectly discountenances
participation in productive labour. Labour would unavoidably
become dishonourable, as being an evidence indecorous under the
ancient tradition handed down from an earlier cultural stage. The
ancient tradition of the predatory culture is that productive
effort is to be shunned as being unworthy of able-bodied men, and
this tradition is reinforced rather than set aside in the passage
from the predatory to the quasi-peaceable manner of life.

Even if the institution of a leisure class had not come in with
the first emergence of individual ownership, by force of the
dishonour attaching to productive employment, it would in any
case have come in as one of the early consequences of ownership.
And it is to be remarked that while the leisure class existed in
theory from the beginning of predatory culture, the institution
takes on a new and fuller meaning with the transition from the
predatory to the next succeeding pecuniary stage of culture. It
is from this time forth a "leisure class" in fact as well as in
theory. From this point dates the institution of the leisure
class in its consummate form.

During the predatory stage proper the distinction between the
leisure and the labouring class is in some degree a ceremonial
distinction only. The able bodied men jealously stand aloof from
whatever is in their apprehension, menial drudgery; but their
activity in fact contributes appreciably to the sustenance of the
group. The subsequent stage of quasi-peaceable industry is
usually characterised by an established chattel slavery, herds of
cattle, and a servile class of herdsmen and shepherds; industry
has advanced so far that the community is no longer dependent for
its livelihood on the chase or on any other form of activity that
can fairly be classed as exploit. From this point on, the
characteristic feature of leisure class life is a conspicuous
exemption from all useful employment.

The normal and characteristic occupations of the class in this
mature phase of its life history are in form very much the same
as in its earlier days. These occupations are government, war,
sports, and devout observances. Persons unduly given to difficult
theoretical niceties may hold that these occupations are still
incidentally and indirectly "productive"; but it is to be noted
as decisive of the question in hand that the ordinary and
ostensible motive of the leisure class in engaging in these
occupations is assuredly not an increase of wealth by productive
effort. At this as at any other cultural stage, government and
war are, at least in part, carried on for the pecuniary gain of
those who engage in them; but it is gain obtained by the
honourable method of seizure and conversion. These occupations
are of the nature of predatory, not of productive, employment.
Something similar may be said of the chase, but with a
difference. As the community passes out of the hunting stage
proper, hunting gradually becomes differentiated into two
distinct employments. On the one hand it is a trade, carried on
chiefly for gain; and from this the element of exploit is
virtually absent, or it is at any rate not present in a
sufficient degree to clear the pursuit of the imputation of
gainful industry. On the other hand, the chase is also a sport
-- an exercise of the predatory impulse simply. As such it does
not afford any appreciable pecuniary incentive, but it contains a
more or less obvious element of exploit. It is this latter
development of the chase -- purged of all imputation of
handicraft -- that alone is meritorious and fairly belongs in the
scheme of life of the developed leisure class.

Abstention from labour is not only a honorific or meritorious
act, but it presently comes to be a requisite of decency. The
insistence on property as the basis of reputability is very naive
and very imperious during the early stages of the accumulation of
wealth. Abstention from labour is the convenient evidence of
wealth and is therefore the conventional mark of social standing;
and this insistence on the meritoriousness of wealth leads to a
more strenuous insistence on leisure. Nota notae est nota rei
ipsius. According to well established laws of human nature,
prescription presently seizes upon this conventional evidence of
wealth and fixes it in men's habits of thought as something that
is in itself substantially meritorious and ennobling; while
productive labour at the same time and by a like process becomes
in a double sense intrinsically unworthy. Prescription ends by
making labour not only disreputable in the eyes of the community,
but morally impossible to the noble, freeborn man, and
incompatible with a worthy life.

This tabu on labour has a further consequence in the industrial
differentiation of classes. As the population increases in
density and the predatory group grows into a settled industrial
community, the constituted authorities and the customs governing
ownership gain in scope and consistency. It then presently
becomes impracticable to accumulate wealth by simple seizure,
and, in logical consistency, acquisition by industry is equally
impossible for high minded and impecunious men. The alternative
open to them is beggary or privation. Wherever the canon of
conspicuous leisure has a chance undisturbed to work out its
tendency, there will therefore emerge a secondary, and in a sense
spurious, leisure class -- abjectly poor and living in a
precarious life of want and discomfort, but morally unable to
stoop to gainful pursuits. The decayed gentleman and the lady who
has seen better days are by no means unfamiliar phenomena even
now. This pervading sense of the indignity of the slightest
manual labour is familiar to all civilized peoples, as well as to
peoples of a less advanced pecuniary culture. In persons of a
delicate sensibility who have long been habituated to gentle
manners, the sense of the shamefulness of manual labour may
become so strong that, at a critical juncture, it will even set
aside the instinct of self-preservation. So, for instance, we are
told of certain Polynesian chiefs, who, under the stress of good
form, preferred to starve rather than carry their food to their
mouths with their own hands. It is true, this conduct may have
been due, at least in part, to an excessive sanctity or tabu
attaching to the chief's person. The tabu would have been
communicated by the contact of his hands, and so would have made
anything touched by him unfit for human food. But the tabu is
itself a derivative of the unworthiness or moral incompatibility
of labour; so that even when construed in this sense the conduct
of the Polynesian chiefs is truer to the canon of honorific
leisure than would at first appear. A better illustration, or at
least a more unmistakable one, is afforded by a certain king of
France, who is said to have lost his life through an excess of
moral stamina in the observance of good form. In the absence of
the functionary whose office it was to shift his master's seat,
the king sat uncomplaining before the fire and suffered his royal
person to be toasted beyond recovery. But in so doing he saved
his Most Christian Majesty from menial contamination. Summum
crede nefas animam praeferre pudori, Et propter vitam vivendi
perdere causas.

It has already been remarked that the term "leisure", as here
used, does not connote indolence or quiescence. What it connotes
is non-productive consumption of time. Time is consumed
non-productively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of
productive work, and (2) as an evidence of pecuniary ability to
afford a life of idleness. But the whole of the life of the
gentleman of leisure is not spent before the eyes of the
spectators who are to be impressed with that spectacle of
honorific leisure which in the ideal scheme makes up his life.
For some part of the time his life is perforce withdrawn from the
public eye, and of this portion which is spent in private the
gentleman of leisure should, for the sake of his good name, be
able to give a convincing account. He should find some means of
putting in evidence the leisure that is not spent in the sight of
the spectators. This can be done only indirectly, through the
exhibition of some tangible, lasting results of the leisure so
spent -- in a manner analogous to the familiar exhibition of
tangible, lasting products of the labour performed for the
gentleman of leisure by handicraftsmen and servants in his

The lasting evidence of productive labour is its material product
-- commonly some article of consumption. In the case of exploit
it is similarly possible and usual to procure some tangible
result that may serve for exhibition in the way of trophy or
booty. At a later phase of the development it is customary to
assume some badge of insignia of honour that will serve as a
conventionally accepted mark of exploit, and which at the same
time indicates the quantity or degree of exploit of which it is
the symbol. As the population increases in density, and as human
relations grow more complex and numerous, all the details of life
undergo a process of elaboration and selection; and in this
process of elaboration the use of trophies develops into a system
of rank, titles, degrees and insignia, typical examples of which
are heraldic devices, medals, and honorary decorations.

As seen from the economic point of view, leisure,
considered as an employment, is closely allied in kind with the
life of exploit; and the achievements which characterise a life
of leisure, and which remain as its decorous criteria, have much
in common with the trophies of exploit. But leisure in the
narrower sense, as distinct from exploit and from any ostensibly
productive employment of effort on objects which are of no
intrinsic use, does not commonly leave a material product. The
criteria of a past performance of leisure therefore commonly take
the form of "immaterial" goods. Such immaterial evidences of past
leisure are quasi-scholarly or quasi-artistic accomplishments and
a knowledge of processes and incidents which do not conduce
directly to the furtherance of human life. So, for instance, in
our time there is the knowledge of the dead languages and the
occult sciences; of correct spelling; of syntax and prosody; of
the various forms of domestic music and other household art; of
the latest properties of dress, furniture, and equipage; of
games, sports, and fancy-bred animals, such as dogs and
race-horses. In all these branches of knowledge the initial
motive from which their acquisition proceeded at the outset, and
through which they first came into vogue, may have been something
quite different from the wish to show that one's time had not
been spent in industrial employment; but unless these
accomplishments had approved themselves as serviceable evidence
of an unproductive expenditure of time, they would not have
survived and held their place as conventional accomplishments of
the leisure class.

These accomplishments may, in some sense, be classed as branches
of learning. Beside and beyond these there is a further range of
social facts which shade off from the region of learning into
that of physical habit and dexterity. Such are what is known as
manners and breeding, polite usage, decorum, and formal and
ceremonial observances generally. This class of facts are even
more immediately and obtrusively presented to the observation,
and they therefore more widely and more imperatively insisted on
as required evidences of a reputable degree of leisure. It is
worth while to remark that all that class of ceremonial
observances which are classed under the general head of manners
hold a more important place in the esteem of men during the stage
of culture at which conspicuous leisure has the greatest vogue as
a mark of reputability, than at later stages of the cultural
development. The barbarian of the quasi-peaceable stage of
industry is notoriously a more high-bred gentleman, in all that
concerns decorum, than any but the very exquisite among the men
of a later age. Indeed, it is well known, or at least it is
currently believed, that manners have progressively deteriorated
as society has receded from the patriarchal stage. Many a
gentleman of the old school has been provoked to remark
regretfully upon the under-bred manners and bearing of even the
better classes in the modern industrial communities; and the
decay of the ceremonial code -- or as it is otherwise called, the
vulgarisation of life -- among the industrial classes proper has
become one of the chief enormities of latter-day civilisation in
the eyes of all persons of delicate sensibilities. The decay
which the code has suffered at the hands of a busy people
testifies -- all depreciation apart -- to the fact that decorum
is a product and an exponent of leisure class life and thrives in
full measure only under a regime of status.

The origin, or better the derivation, of manners is no doubt, to
be sought elsewhere than in a conscious effort on the part of the
well-mannered to show that much time has been spent in acquiring
them. The proximate end of innovation and elaboration has been
the higher effectiveness of the new departure in point of beauty
or of expressiveness. In great part the ceremonial code of
decorous usages owes its beginning and its growth to the desire
to conciliate or to show good-will, as anthropologists and
sociologists are in the habit of assuming, and this initial
motive is rarely if ever absent from the conduct of well-mannered
persons at any stage of the later development. Manners, we are
told, are in part an elaboration of gesture, and in part they are
symbolical and conventionalised survivals representing former
acts of dominance or of personal service or of personal contact.
In large part they are an expression of the relation of status,
-- a symbolic pantomime of mastery on the one hand and of
subservience on the other. Wherever at the present time the
predatory habit of mind, and the consequent attitude of mastery
and of subservience, gives its character to the accredited scheme
of life, there the importance of all punctilios of conduct is
extreme, and the assiduity with which the ceremonial observance
of rank and titles is attended to approaches closely to the ideal
set by the barbarian of the quasi-peaceable nomadic culture. Some
of the Continental countries afford good illustrations of this
spiritual survival. In these communities the archaic ideal is
similarly approached as regards the esteem accorded to manners as
a fact of intrinsic worth.

Decorum set out with being symbol and pantomime and with having
utility only as an exponent of the facts and qualities
symbolised; but it presently suffered the transmutation which
commonly passes over symbolical facts in human intercourse.
Manners presently came, in popular apprehension, to be possessed
of a substantial utility in themselves; they acquired a
sacramental character, in great measure independent of the facts
which they originally prefigured. Deviations from the code of
decorum have become intrinsically odious to all men, and good
breeding is, in everyday apprehension, not simply an adventitious
mark of human excellence, but an integral feature of the worthy
human soul. There are few things that so touch us with
instinctive revulsion as a breach of decorum; and so far have we
progressed in the direction of imputing intrinsic utility to the
ceremonial observances of etiquette that few of us, if any, can
dissociate an offence against etiquette from a sense of the
substantial unworthiness of the offender. A breach of faith may
be condoned, but a breach of decorum can not. "Manners maketh

None the less, while manners have this intrinsic utility, in the
apprehension of the performer and the beholder alike, this sense
of the intrinsic rightness of decorum is only the proximate
ground of the vogue of manners and breeding. Their ulterior,
economic ground is to be sought in the honorific character of
that leisure or non-productive employment of time and effort
without which good manners are not acquired. The knowledge and
habit of good form come only by long-continued use. Refined
tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of
gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and
expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time
and energy are taken up with work. A knowledge of good form is
prima facie evidence that that portion of the well-bred person's
life which is not spent under the observation of the spectator
has been worthily spent in acquiring accomplishments that are of
no lucrative effect. In the last analysis the value of manners
lies in the fact that they are the voucher of a life of leisure.
Therefore, conversely, since leisure is the conventional means of
pecuniary repute, the acquisition of some proficiency in decorum
is incumbent on all who aspire to a modicum of pecuniary decency.

So much of the honourable life of leisure as is not spent in the
sight of spectators can serve the purposes of reputability only
in so far as it leaves a tangible, visible result that can be put
in evidence and can be measured and compared with products of the
same class exhibited by competing aspirants for repute. Some such
effect, in the way of leisurely manners and carriage, etc.,
follows from simple persistent abstention from work, even where
the subject does not take thought of the matter and
studiously acquire an air of leisurely opulence and mastery.
Especially does it seem to be true that a life of leisure in this
way persisted in through several generations will leave a
persistent, ascertainable effect in the conformation of the
person, and still more in his habitual bearing and demeanour. But
all the suggestions of a cumulative life of leisure, and all the
proficiency in decorum that comes by the way of passive
habituation, may be further improved upon by taking thought and
assiduously acquiring the marks of honourable leisure, and then
carrying the exhibition of these adventitious marks of exemption
from employment out in a strenuous and systematic discipline.
Plainly, this is a point at which a diligent application of
effort and expenditure may materially further the attainment of a
decent proficiency in the leisure-class properties. Conversely,
the greater the degree of proficiency and the more patent the
evidence of a high degree of habituation to observances which
serve no lucrative or other directly useful purpose, the greater
the consumption of time and substance impliedly involved in their
acquisition, and the greater the resultant good repute. Hence
under the competitive struggle for proficiency in good manners,
it comes about that much pains in taken with the cultivation of
habits of decorum; and hence the details of decorum develop into
a comprehensive discipline, conformity to which is required of
all who would be held blameless in point of repute. And hence, on
the other hand, this conspicuous leisure of which decorum is a
ramification grows gradually into a laborious drill in deportment
and an education in taste and discrimination as to what articles
of consumption are decorous and what are the decorous methods of
consuming them.

In this connection it is worthy of notice that the
possibility of producing pathological and other idiosyncrasies of
person and manner by shrewd mimicry and a systematic drill have
been turned to account in the deliberate production of a cultured
class -- often with a very happy effect. In this way, by the
process vulgarly known as snobbery, a syncopated evolution of
gentle birth and breeding is achieved in the case of a goodly
number of families and lines of descent. This syncopated gentle
birth gives results which, in point of serviceability as a
leisure-class factor in the population, are in no wise
substantially inferior to others who may have had a longer but
less arduous training in the pecuniary properties.

There are, moreover, measureable degrees of conformity to the
latest accredited code of the punctilios as regards decorous
means and methods of consumption. Differences between one person
and another in the degree of conformity to the ideal in these
respects can be compared, and persons may be graded and scheduled
with some accuracy and effect according to a progressive scale of
manners and breeding. The award of reputability in this regard is
commonly made in good faith, on the ground of conformity to
accepted canons of taste in the matters concerned, and without
conscious regard to the pecuniary standing or the degree of
leisure practised by any given candidate for reputability; but
the canons of taste according to which the award is made are
constantly under the surveillance of the law of conspicuous
leisure, and are indeed constantly undergoing change and revision
to bring them into closer conformity with its requirements. So
that while the proximate ground of discrimination may be of
another kind, still the pervading principle and abiding test of
good breeding is the requirement of a substantial and patent
waste of time. There may be some considerable range of variation
in detail within the scope of this principle, but they are
variations of form and expression, not of substance.

Much of the courtesy of everyday intercourse is of course a
direct expression of consideration and kindly good-will, and this
element of conduct has for the most part no need of being traced
back to any underlying ground of reputability to explain either
its presence or the approval with which it is regarded; but the
same is not true of the code of properties. These latter are
expressions of status. It is of course sufficiently plain, to any
one who cares to see, that our bearing towards menials and other
pecuniary dependent inferiors is the bearing of the superior
member in a relation of status, though its manifestation is often
greatly modified and softened from the original expression of
crude dominance. Similarly, our bearing towards superiors, and in
great measure towards equals, expresses a more or less
conventionalised attitude of subservience. Witness the masterful
presence of the high-minded gentleman or lady, which testifies to
so much of dominance and independence of economic circumstances,
and which at the same time appeals with such convincing force to
our sense of what is right and gracious. It is among this highest
leisure class, who have no superiors and few peers, that decorum
finds its fullest and maturest expression; and it is this highest
class also that gives decorum that definite formulation which
serves as a canon of conduct for the classes beneath. And there
also the code is most obviously a code of status and shows most
plainly its incompatibility with all vulgarly productive work. A
divine assurance and an imperious complaisance, as of one
habituated to require subservience and to take no thought for the
morrow, is the birthright and the criterion of the gentleman at
his best; and it is in popular apprehension even more than that,
for this demeanour is accepted as an intrinsic attribute of
superior worth, before which the base-born commoner delights to
stoop and yield.

As has been indicated in an earlier chapter, there is reason to
believe that the institution of ownership has begun with the
ownership of persons, primarily women. The incentives to
acquiring such property have apparently been: (1) a propensity
for dominance and coercion; (2) the utility of these persons as
evidence of the prowess of the owner; (3) the utility of their

Personal service holds a peculiar place in the economic
development. During the stage of quasi-peaceable industry, and
especially during the earlier development of industry within the
limits of this general stage, the utility of their services seems
commonly to be the dominant motive to the acquisition of property
in persons. Servants are valued for their services. But the
dominance of this motive is not due to a decline in the absolute
importance of the other two utilities possessed by servants. It
is rather that the altered circumstance of life accentuate the
utility of servants for this last-named purpose. Women and other
slaves are highly valued, both as an evidence of wealth and as a
means of accumulating wealth. Together with cattle, if the tribe
is a pastoral one, they are the usual form of investment for a
profit. To such an extent may female slavery give its character
to the economic life under the quasi-peaceable culture that the
women even comes to serve as a unit of value among peoples
occupying this cultural stage -- as for instance in Homeric
times. Where this is the case there need be little question but
that the basis of the industrial system is chattel slavery and
that the women are commonly slaves. The great, pervading human
relation in such a system is that of master and servant. The
accepted evidence of wealth is the possession of many women, and
presently also of other slaves engaged in attendance on their
master's person and in producing goods for him.

A division of labour presently sets in, whereby personal service
and attendance on the master becomes the special office of a
portion of the servants, while those who are wholly employed in
industrial occupations proper are removed more and more from all
immediate relation to the person of their owner. At the same time
those servants whose office is personal service, including
domestic duties, come gradually to be exempted from productive
industry carried on for gain.

This process of progressive exemption from the common run of
industrial employment will commonly begin with the exemption of
the wife, or the chief wife. After the community has advanced to
settled habits of life, wife-capture from hostile tribes becomes
impracticable as a customary source of supply. Where this
cultural advance has been achieved, the chief wife is ordinarily
of gentle blood, and the fact of her being so will hasten her
exemption from vulgar employment. The manner in which the concept
of gentle blood originates, as well as the place which it
occupies in the development of marriage, cannot be discussed in
this place. For the purpose in hand it will be sufficient to say
that gentle blood is blood which has been ennobled by protracted
contact with accumulated wealth or unbroken prerogative. The
women with these antecedents is preferred in marriage, both for
the sake of a resulting alliance with her powerful relatives and
because a superior worth is felt to inhere in blood which has
been associated with many goods and great power. She will still
be her husband's chattel, as she was her father's chattel before
her purchase, but she is at the same time of her father's gentle
blood; and hence there is a moral incongruity in her occupying
herself with the debasing employments of her fellow-servants.
However completely she may be subject to her master, and however
inferior to the male members of the social stratum in which her
birth has placed her, the principle that gentility is
transmissible will act to place her above the common slave; and
so soon as this principle has acquired a prescriptive authority
it will act to invest her in some measure with that prerogative
of leisure which is the chief mark of gentility. Furthered by
this principle of transmissible gentility the wife's exemption
gains in scope, if the wealth of her owner permits it, until it
includes exemption from debasing menial service as well as from
handicraft. As the industrial development goes on and property
becomes massed in relatively fewer hands, the conventional
standard of wealth of the upper class rises. The same tendency to
exemption from handicraft, and in the course of time from menial
domestic employments, will then assert itself as regards the
other wives, if such there are, and also as regards other
servants in immediate attendance upon the person of their master.
The exemption comes more tardily the remoter the relation in
which the servant stands to the person of the master.

If the pecuniary situation of the master permits it, the
development of a special class of personal or body servants is
also furthered by the very grave importance which comes to attach
to this personal service. The master's person, being the
embodiment of worth and honour, is of the most serious
consequence. Both for his reputable standing in the community and
for his self-respect, it is a matter of moment that he should
have at his call efficient specialised servants, whose attendance
upon his person is not diverted from this their chief office by
any by-occupation. These specialised servants are useful more for
show than for service actually performed. In so far as they are
not kept for exhibition simply, they afford gratification to
their master chiefly in allowing scope to his propensity for
dominance. It is true, the care of the continually increasing
household apparatus may require added labour; but since the
apparatus is commonly increased in order to serve as a means of
good repute rather than as a means of comfort, this qualification
is not of great weight. All these lines of utility are better
served by a larger number of more highly specialised servants.
There results, therefore, a constantly increasing differentiation
and multiplication of domestic and body servants, along with a
concomitant progressive exemption of such servants from
productive labour. By virtue of their serving as evidence of
ability to pay, the office of such domestics regularly tends to
include continually fewer duties, and their service tends in the
end to become nominal only. This is especially true of those
servants who are in most immediate and obvious attendance upon
their master. So that the utility of these comes to consist, in
great part, in their conspicuous exemption from productive labour
and in the evidence which this exemption affords of their
master's wealth and power.

After some considerable advance has been made in the practice of
employing a special corps of servants for the performance of a
conspicuous leisure in this manner, men begin to be preferred
above women for services that bring them obtrusively into view.
Men, especially lusty, personable fellows, such as footmen and
other menials should be, are obviously more powerful and more
expensive than women. They are better fitted for this work, as
showing a larger waste of time and of human energy. Hence it
comes about that in the economy of the leisure class the busy
housewife of the early patriarchal days, with her retinue of
hard-working handmaidens, presently gives place to the lady and
the lackey.

In all grades and walks of life, and at any stage of the economic
development, the leisure of the lady and of the lackey differs
from the leisure of the gentleman in his own right in that it is
an occupation of an ostensibly laborious kind. It takes the form,
in large measure, of a painstaking attention to the service of
the master, or to the maintenance and elaboration of the
household paraphernalia; so that it is leisure only in the sense
that little or no productive work is performed by this class, not
in the sense that all appearance of labour is avoided by them.
The duties performed by the lady, or by the household or domestic
servants, are frequently arduous enough, and they are also
frequently directed to ends which are considered extremely
necessary to the comfort of the entire household. So far as these
services conduce to the physical efficiency or comfort of the
master or the rest of the household, they are to be accounted
productive work. Only the residue of employment left after
deduction of this effective work is to be classed as a
performance of leisure.

But much of the services classed as household cares in modern
everyday life, and many of the "utilities" required for a
comfortable existence by civilised man, are of a ceremonial
character. They are, therefore, properly to be classed as a
performance of leisure in the sense in which the term is here
used. They may be none the less imperatively necessary from the
point of view of decent existence: they may be none the less
requisite for personal comfort even, although they may be chiefly
or wholly of a ceremonial character. But in so far as they
partake of this character they are imperative and requisite
because we have been taught to require them under pain of
ceremonial uncleanness or unworthiness. We feel discomfort in
their absence, but not because their absence results directly in
physical discomfort; nor would a taste not trained to
discriminate between the conventionally good and the
conventionally bad take offence at their omission. In so far as
this is true the labour spent in these services is to be classed
as leisure; and when performed by others than the economically
free and self-directed head of the establishment, they are to be
classed as vicarious leisure.

The vicarious leisure performed by housewives and menials, under
the head of household cares, may frequently develop into
drudgery, especially where the competition for reputability is
close and strenuous. This is frequently the case in modern life.
Where this happens, the domestic service which comprises the
duties of this servant class might aptly be designated as wasted
effort, rather than as vicarious leisure. But the latter term has
the advantage of indicating the line of derivation of these
domestic offices, as well as of neatly suggesting the substantial
economic ground of their utility; for these occupations are
chiefly useful as a method of imputing pecuniary reputability to
the master or to the household on the ground that a given amount
of time and effort is conspicuously wasted in that behalf.

In this way, then, there arises a subsidiary or derivative
leisure class, whose office is the performance of a vicarious
leisure for the behoof of the reputability of the primary or
legitimate leisure class. This vicarious leisure class is
distinguished from the leisure class proper by a characteristic
feature of its habitual mode of life. The leisure of the master
class is, at least ostensibly, an indulgence of a proclivity for
the avoidance of labour and is presumed to enhance the master's
own well-being and fulness of life; but the leisure of the
servant class exempt from productive labour is in some sort a
performance exacted from them, and is not normally or primarily
directed to their own comfort. The leisure of the servant is not
his own leisure. So far as he is a servant in the full sense, and
not at the same time a member of a lower order of the leisure
class proper, his leisure normally passes under the guise of
specialised service directed to the furtherance of his master's
fulness of life. Evidence of this relation of subservience is
obviously present in the servant's carriage and manner of life.
The like is often true of the wife throughout the protracted
economic stage during which she is still primarily a servant --
that is to say, so long as the household with a male head remains
in force. In order to satisfy the requirements of the leisure
class scheme of life, the servant should show not only an
attitude of subservience, but also the effects of special
training and practice in subservience. The servant or wife should
not only perform certain offices and show a servile disposition,
but it is quite as imperative that they should show an acquired
facility in the tactics of subservience -- a trained conformity
to the canons of effectual and conspicuous subservience. Even
today it is this aptitude and acquired skill in the formal
manifestation of the servile relation that constitutes the chief
element of utility in our highly paid servants, as well as one of
the chief ornaments of the well-bred housewife.

The first requisite of a good servant is that he should
conspicuously know his place. It is not enough that he knows how
to effect certain desired mechanical results; he must above all,
know how to effect these results in due form. Domestic service
might be said to be a spiritual rather than a mechanical
function. Gradually there grows up an elaborate system of good
form, specifically regulating the manner in which this vicarious
leisure of the servant class is to be performed. Any departure
from these canons of form is to be depreciated, not so much
because it evinces a shortcoming in mechanical efficiency, or
even that it shows an absence of the servile attitude and
temperament, but because, in the last analysis, it shows the
absence of special training. Special training in personal service
costs time and effort, and where it is obviously present in a
high degree, it argues that the servant who possesses it, neither
is nor has been habitually engaged in any productive occupation.
It is prima facie evidence of a vicarious leisure extending far
back in the past. So that trained service has utility, not only
as gratifying the master's instinctive liking for good and
skilful workmanship and his propensity for conspicuous dominance
over those whose lives are subservient to his own, but it has
utility also as putting in evidence a much larger consumption of
human service than would be shown by the mere present conspicuous
leisure performed by an untrained person. It is a serious
grievance if a gentleman's butler or footman performs his duties
about his master's table or carriage in such unformed style as to
suggest that his habitual occupation may be ploughing or
sheepherding. Such bungling work would imply inability on the
master's part to procure the service of specially trained
servants; that is to say, it would imply inability to pay for the
consumption of time, effort, and instruction required to fit a
trained servant for special service under the exacting code of
forms. If the performance of the servant argues lack of means on
the part of his master, it defeats its chief substantial end; for
the chief use of servants is the evidence they afford of the
master's ability to pay.

What has just been said might be taken to imply that the offence
of an under-trained servant lies in a direct suggestion of
inexpensiveness or of usefulness. Such, of course, is not the
case. The connection is much less immediate. What happens here is
what happens generally. Whatever approves itself to us on any
ground at the outset, presently comes to appeal to us as a
gratifying thing in itself; it comes to rest in our habits of
though as substantially right. But in order that any specific
canon of deportment shall maintain itself in favour, it must
continue to have the support of, or at least not be incompatible
with, the habit or aptitude which constitutes the norm of its
development. The need of vicarious leisure, or conspicuous
consumption of service, is a dominant incentive to the keeping of
servants. So long as this remains true it may be set down without
much discussion that any such departure from accepted usage as
would suggest an abridged apprenticeship in service would
presently be found insufferable. The requirement of an expensive
vicarious leisure acts indirectly, selectively, by guiding the
formation of our taste, -- of our sense of what is right in these
matters, -- and so weeds out unconformable departures by
withholding approval of them.

As the standard of wealth recognized by common consent advances,
the possession and exploitation of servants as a means of showing
superfluity undergoes a refinement. The possession and
maintenance of slaves employed in the production of goods argues
wealth and prowess, but the maintenance of servants who produce
nothing argues still higher wealth and position. Under this
principle there arises a class of servants, the more numerous the
better, whose sole office is fatuously to wait upon the person of
their owner, and so to put in evidence his ability unproductively
to consume a large amount of service. There supervenes a division
of labour among the servants or dependents whose life is spent in
maintaining the honour of the gentleman of leisure. So that,
while one group produces goods for him, another group, usually
headed by the wife, or chief, consumes for him in conspicuous
leisure; thereby putting in evidence his ability to sustain large
pecuniary damage without impairing his superior opulence.

This somewhat idealized and diagrammatic outline of the
development and nature of domestic service comes nearest being
true for that cultural stage which was here been named the
"quasi-peaceable" stage of industry. At this stage personal
service first rises to the position of an economic institution,
and it is at this stage that it occupies the largest place in the
community's scheme of life. In the cultural sequence, the
quasi-peaceable stage follows the predatory stage proper, the two
being successive phases of barbarian life. Its characteristic
feature is a formal observance of peace and order, at the same
time that life at this stage still has too much of coercion and
class antagonism to be called peaceable in the full sense of the
word. For many purposes, and from another point of view than the
economic one, it might as well be named the stage of status. The
method of human relation during this stage, and the spiritual
attitude of men at this level of culture, is well summed up under
the term. But as a descriptive term to characterise the
prevailing methods of industry, as well as to indicate the trend
of industrial development at this point in economic evolution,
the term "quasi-peaceable" seems preferable. So far as concerns
the communities of the Western culture, this phase of economic
development probably lies in the past; except for a numerically
small though very conspicuous fraction of the community in whom
the habits of thought peculiar to the barbarian culture have
suffered but a relatively slight disintegration.

Personal service is still an element of great economic
importance, especially as regards the distribution and
consumption of goods; but its relative importance even in this
direction is no doubt less than it once was. The best development
of this vicarious leisure lies in the past rather than in the
present; and its best expression in the present is to be found in
the scheme of life of the upper leisure class. To this class the
modern culture owes much in the way of the conservation of
traditions, usages, and habits of thought which belong on a more
archaic cultural plane, so far as regards their widest acceptance
and their most effective development.

In the modern industrial communities the mechanical
contrivances available for the comfort and convenience of
everyday life are highly developed. So much so that body
servants, or, indeed, domestic servants of any kind, would now
scarcely be employed by anybody except on the ground of a canon
of reputability carried over by tradition from earlier usage. The
only exception would be servants employed to attend on the
persons of the infirm and the feeble-minded. But such servants
properly come under the head of trained nurses rather than under
that of domestic servants, and they are, therefore, an apparent
rather than a real exception to the rule.

The proximate reason for keeping domestic servants, for instance,
in the moderately well-to-do household of to-day, is (ostensibly)
that the members of the household are unable without discomfort
to compass the work required by such a modern
establishment. And the reason for their being unable to
accomplish it is (1) that they have too many "social duties", and
(2) that the work to be done is too severe and that there is too
much of it. These two reasons may be restated as follows: (1)
Under the mandatory code of decency, the time and effort of the
members of such a household are required to be ostensibly all
spent in a performance of conspicuous leisure, in the way of
calls, drives, clubs, sewing-circles, sports, charity
organisations, and other like social functions. Those persons
whose time and energy are employed in these matters privately
avow that all these observances, as well as the incidental
attention to dress and other conspicuous consumption, are very
irksome but altogether unavoidable. (2) Under the requirement of
conspicuous consumption of goods, the apparatus of living has
grown so elaborate and cumbrous, in the way of dwellings,
furniture, bric-a-brac, wardrobe and meals, that the consumers of
these things cannot make way with them in the required manner
without help. Personal contact with the hired persons whose aid
is called in to fulfil the routine of decency is commonly
distasteful to the occupants of the house, but their presence is
endured and paid for, in order to delegate to them a share in
this onerous consumption of household goods. The presence of
domestic servants, and of the special class of body servants in
an eminent degree, is a concession of physical comfort to the
moral need of pecuniary decency.

The largest manifestation of vicarious leisure in modern life is
made up of what are called domestic duties. These duties are fast
becoming a species of services performed, not so much for the
individual behoof of the head of the household as for the
reputability of the household taken as a corporate unit -- a
group of which the housewife is a member on a footing of
ostensible equality. As fast as the household for which they are
performed departs from its archaic basis of ownership-marriage,
these household duties of course tend to fall out of the category
of vicarious leisure in the original sense; except so far as they
are performed by hired servants. That is to say, since vicarious
leisure is possible only on a basis of status or of hired
service, the disappearance of the relation of status from human
intercourse at any point carries with it the disappearance of
vicarious leisure so far as regards that much of life. But it is
to be added, in qualification of this qualification, that so long
as the household subsists, even with a divided head, this class
of non-productive labour performed for the sake of the household
reputability must still be classed as vicarious leisure, although
in a slightly altered sense. It is now leisure performed for the
quasi-personal corporate household, instead of, as formerly, for
the proprietary head of the household.

Chapter Four

Conspicuous Consumption

In what has been said of the evolution of the vicarious leisure
class and its differentiation from the general body of the
working classes, reference has been made to a further
division of labour, -- that between the different servant
classes. One portion of the servant class, chiefly those persons
whose occupation is vicarious leisure, come to undertake a new,
subsidiary range of duties -- the vicarious consumption of goods.
The most obvious form in which this consumption occurs is seen in
the wearing of liveries and the occupation of spacious servants'
quarters. Another, scarcely less obtrusive or less effective form
of vicarious consumption, and a much more widely prevalent one,
is the consumption of food, clothing, dwelling, and furniture by
the lady and the rest of the domestic establishment.

But already at a point in economic evolution far antedating the
emergence of the lady, specialised consumption of goods as an
evidence of pecuniary strength had begun to work out in a more or
less elaborate system. The beginning of a differentiation in
consumption even antedates the appearance of anything that can
fairly be called pecuniary strength. It is traceable back to the
initial phase of predatory culture, and there is even a
suggestion that an incipient differentiation in this respect lies
back of the beginnings of the predatory life. This most primitive
differentiation in the consumption of goods is like the later
differentiation with which we are all so intimately familiar, in
that it is largely of a ceremonial character, but unlike the
latter it does not rest on a difference in accumulated wealth.
The utility of consumption as an evidence of wealth is to be
classed as a derivative growth. It is an adaption to a new end,
by a selective process, of a distinction previously existing and
well established in men's habits of thought.

In the earlier phases of the predatory culture the only economic
differentiation is a broad distinction between an honourable
superior class made up of the able-bodied men on the one side,
and a base inferior class of labouring women on the other.
According to the ideal scheme of life in force at the time it is
the office of the men to consume what the women produce. Such
consumption as falls to the women is merely incidental to their
work; it is a means to their continued labour, and not a
consumption directed to their own comfort and fulness of life.
Unproductive consumption of goods is honourable, primarily as a
mark of prowess and a perquisite of human dignity; secondarily it
becomes substantially honourable to itself, especially the
consumption of the more desirable things. The consumption of
choice articles of food, and frequently also of rare articles of
adornment, becomes tabu to the women and children; and if there
is a base (servile) class of men, the tabu holds also for them.
With a further advance in culture this tabu may change into
simple custom of a more or less rigorous character; but whatever
be the theoretical basis of the distinction which is maintained,
whether it be a tabu or a larger conventionality, the features of
the conventional scheme of consumption do not change easily. When
the quasi-peaceable stage of industry is reached, with its
fundamental institution of chattel slavery, the general
principle, more or less rigorously applied, is that the base,
industrious class should consume only what may be necessary to
their subsistence. In the nature of things, luxuries and the
comforts of life belong to the leisure class. Under the tabu,
certain victuals, and more particularly certain beverages, are
strictly reserved for the use of the superior class.

The ceremonial differentiation of the dietary is best seen in the
use of intoxicating beverages and narcotics. If these articles of
consumption are costly, they are felt to be noble and honorific.
Therefore the base classes, primarily the women, practice an
enforced continence with respect to these stimulants, except in
countries where they are obtainable at a very low cost. From
archaic times down through all the length of the patriarchal
regime it has been the office of the women to prepare and
administer these luxuries, and it has been the perquisite of the
men of gentle birth and breeding to consume them. Drunkenness and
the other pathological consequences of the free use of stimulants
therefore tend in their turn to become honorific, as being a
mark, at the second remove, of the superior status of those who
are able to afford the indulgence. Infirmities induced by
over-indulgence are among some peoples freely recognised as manly
attributes. It has even happened that the name for certain
diseased conditions of the body arising from such an origin has
passed into everyday speech as a synonym for "noble" or "gentle".
It is only at a relatively early stage of culture that the
symptoms of expensive vice are conventionally accepted as marks
of a superior status, and so tend to become virtues and command
the deference of the community; but the reputability that
attaches to certain expensive vices long retains so much of its
force as to appreciably lesson the disapprobation visited upon
the men of the wealthy or noble class for any excessive
indulgence. The same invidious distinction adds force to the
current disapproval of any indulgence of this kind on the part of
women, minors, and inferiors. This invidious traditional
distinction has not lost its force even among the more advanced
peoples of today. Where the example set by the leisure class
retains its imperative force in the regulation of the
conventionalities, it is observable that the women still in great
measure practise the same traditional continence with regard to

This characterisation of the greater continence in the use of
stimulants practised by the women of the reputable classes may
seem an excessive refinement of logic at the expense of common
sense. But facts within easy reach of any one who cares to know
them go to say that the greater abstinence of women is in some
part due to an imperative conventionality; and this
conventionality is, in a general way, strongest where the
patriarchal tradition -- the tradition that the woman is a
chattel -- has retained its hold in greatest vigour. In a sense
which has been greatly qualified in scope and rigour, but which
has by no means lost its meaning even yet, this tradition says
that the woman, being a chattel, should consume only what is
necessary to her sustenance, -- except so far as her further
consumption contributes to the comfort or the good repute of her
master. The consumption of luxuries, in the true sense, is a
consumption directed to the comfort of the consumer himself, and
is, therefore, a mark of the master. Any such consumption by
others can take place only on a basis of sufferance. In
communities where the popular habits of thought have been
profoundly shaped by the patriarchal tradition we may
accordingly look for survivals of the tabu on luxuries at least
to the extent of a conventional deprecation of their use by the
unfree and dependent class. This is more particularly true as
regards certain luxuries, the use of which by the dependent class
would detract sensibly from the comfort or pleasure of their
masters, or which are held to be of doubtful legitimacy on other
grounds. In the apprehension of the great conservative middle
class of Western civilisation the use of these various stimulants
is obnoxious to at least one, if not both, of these objections;
and it is a fact too significant to be passed over that it is
precisely among these middle classes of the Germanic culture,
with their strong surviving sense of the patriarchal proprieties,
that the women are to the greatest extent subject to a qualified
tabu on narcotics and alcoholic beverages. With many
qualifications -- with more qualifications as the patriarchal
tradition has gradually weakened -- the general rule is felt to
be right and binding that women should consume only for the
benefit of their masters. The objection of course presents itself
that expenditure on women's dress and household paraphernalia is
an obvious exception to this rule; but it will appear in the

Book of the day: