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Theory of the Leisure Class - Thorstein Veblen

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The Theory of the Leisure Class
by Thorstein Veblen


Chapter One

Introductory


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.
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