One of the Most Provocative Books Written by an American Intellectual: First Edition Of Veblen's Landmark Theory Of The Leisure Class

    Thorstein Veblen. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. New York: Macmillan, 1899. First edition of one of the masterpieces of American social thought and economic theory. Octavo. viii, 400, [2, ads], [2, blank] pages. Publisher's original green cloth. Boards triple-ruled at top and bottom, spine triple-ruled and lettered in gilt, top edge gilt. Some rubbing to binding, some soiling and bubbling to front board, hinges just barely starting (very small areas of damage, still very solid). Faint dampstaining to upper margin of page 326 to the final text leaf. Still, near fine.

    "Almost a century after its original publication, Thorstein Veblen's work is as fresh and relevant as ever. Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class is in the tradition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, yet it provides a surprisingly contemporary look at American economics and society. Establishing such terms as 'conspicuous consumption' and 'pecuniary emulation,' Veblen's most famous work has become an archetype not only of economic theory, but of historical and sociological thought as well. An iconoclastic masterpiece of American social thought. Veblen assails the sacrosanct concepts borrowed from evolutionary biology and used to justify social inequality. The fruit of much lonely study and contemplation, this first book of Veblen's catapulted him to prominence at the age of 42. Thoroughly independent and ornery in his living and thinking, Veblen began here his long and provocative criticism of the business enterprise system... his ideas were seminal and his influence is continuous" (100 Influential American Books). With this work Veblen also launched a radical critique of conventional economics, which he viewed as an assemblage of intellectual fictions, out of touch with economic reality-and worse, used to camouflage injustice in the name of natural laws. In place of traditional theory, Veblen introduced the concept of "Institutionalism," according to which economic behavior is conditioned by particular cultural value systems. Veblen's challenge to conventional economic analysis achieved immediate and lasting influence. But unlike such Institutionalists as Commons and Ely, Veblen offered no program of practical reform. For Veblen change was at best evolutionary and impersonal, dependent at this historical moment on the rise of a new class of technocrats whose predilection for rational efficiency might replace the pecuniary values of the captains of industry. "One of the most provocative books written by an American intellectual" (Adams, Radical Literature, 59). From the James and Deborah Boyd Collection.

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    April, 2012
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