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5/27/04


Home_____The Theory of The Leisure Class: Thorstein Veblen on Dogs

In the following excerpt, Veblen has a bit of cranky fun with canines, which allows a kind of metaphor for some elements of his theories. The dog, according to Veblen, promotes economic competition as dictated by Leisure Class values. First, it helps the owner feel superior, like a top dog. It gives the owner a sense of the denigration of others by its threat to them. It serves as an emblem of conspicuous consumption. It is as useless as a lawn, both it and grass providing status precisely because they are inutile. It promotes the mythos of the Leisure Class by its predatory nature, suggesting survival of the fittest.

Veblen: " He is the filthiest of the domestic animals in his person and the nastiest in his habits. For this he makes up in a servile, fawning attitude towards his master, and a readiness to inflict damage and discomfort on all else. The dog, then, commends himself to our favour by affording play to our propensity for mastery, and as he is also an item of expense, and commonly serves no industrial purpose, he holds a well-assured place in men's regard as a thing of good repute. The dog is at the same time associated in our imaginations with the chase--a meritorious employment and an expression of the honourable predatory impulse."

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