Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/575

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which it has a just claim to occupy. It is the application of science to agriculture that will bring about this result.

Scientific Literature.


The Theory of the Leisure Class[1] of Mr. Thorstein Veblen is primarily an inquiry into the place and value of the leisure class as an economic factor in modern life. Hardly less attention, however, is given to the origin and line of derivation of the institution, and to features of social life not commonly classed as economic, into the very heart of some of which the study goes. The institution of the leisure class, which is defined generally as that class whose occupation is not industrial, is found in its best development at the higher stages of the barbarian culture, as in feudal Europe or feudal Japan. Whichever way we go from this point it is modified. Its origin appears at a very early stage in history, and appears in the germ in the savage division of the occupations of men and women. The women carried on the industries, and the men went to the hunt or to war—occupations with which the idea of prowess or exploit was associated, giving the stamp of aristocracy. In the highest development of this distinction, the nonindustrial upper-class occupations may be roughly comprised under the heads of government, warfare, religious observances, and sports. In the sequence of cultural evolution the emergence of a leisure class coincides with the beginning of ownership, ownership of women being one of the most conspicuous forms in earlier times, then ownership of property and its symbols. Among the signs of wealth are conspicuous leisure, which includes social distinction and functions and conspicuous consumption, or the possession of fine things not necessaries, and plenty of them. These lead to the setting up of a pecuniary standard of living and pecuniary canons of taste, and the adoption of dress as an expression of the pecuniary culture. In the chapter on Industrial Exemption and Conservatism we are introduced to the reason of conventionalism and of its power. "The fact that the usages, actions, and views of the well-to-do leisure class acquire the character of a prescriptive canon of conduct for the rest of society gives added weight and reach to the conservative influence of that class. It makes it incumbent upon all respectable people to follow their lead." Hence it exerts a retarding influence on social development, stiffening the resistance of all other classes against innovation. Further, the code of proprieties in vogue at any given time or in any society has the character of an organic whole, and any important infringement upon it is likely to derange it. This conservative quality goes so far as to tend toward spiritual survival and reversion. The idea of prowess survives in our barbaric admiration of military exploits, in the taste for sports, and in the gambling tendency, which is based on belief in luck and is enhanced by the desire to triumph at the expense of another. A connection is traced between the admiration of prowess and the cultivation of the devotional spirit which, joined with the fondness for display, leads all worshipers eventually to elaboration of rituals. A further development, classed as

  1. The Theory of the Leisure Class. An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. By Thorstein Veblen. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 400. Price, $2.