The Theory of the Leisure Class*
Thorstein Veblen

Part 2 out of 6

sequel that this exception is much more obvious than substantial.
During the earlier stages of economic development,
consumption of goods without stint, especially consumption of the
better grades of goods, -- ideally all consumption in excess of
the subsistence minimum, -- pertains normally to the leisure
class. This restriction tends to disappear, at least formally,
after the later peaceable stage has been reached, with private
ownership of goods and an industrial system based on wage labour
or on the petty household economy. But during the earlier
quasi-peaceable stage, when so many of the traditions through
which the institution of a leisure class has affected the
economic life of later times were taking form and consistency,
this principle has had the force of a conventional law. It has
served as the norm to which consumption has tended to conform,
and any appreciable departure from it is to be regarded as an
aberrant form, sure to be eliminated sooner or later in the
further course of development.

The quasi-peaceable gentleman of leisure, then, not only consumes
of the staff of life beyond the minimum required for subsistence
and physical efficiency, but his consumption also undergoes a
specialisation as regards the quality of the goods consumed. He
consumes freely and of the best, in food, drink, narcotics,
shelter, services, ornaments, apparel, weapons and accoutrements,
amusements, amulets, and idols or divinities. In the process of
gradual amelioration which takes place in the articles of his
consumption, the motive principle and proximate aim of innovation
is no doubt the higher efficiency of the improved and more
elaborate products for personal comfort and well-being. But that
does not remain the sole purpose of their consumption. The canon
of reputability is at hand and seizes upon such innovations as
are, according to its standard, fit to survive. Since the
consumption of these more excellent goods is an evidence of
wealth, it becomes honorific; and conversely, the failure to
consume in due quantity and quality becomes a mark of inferiority
and demerit.

This growth of punctilious discrimination as to qualitative
excellence in eating, drinking, etc. presently affects not only
the manner of life, but also the training and intellectual
activity of the gentleman of leisure. He is no longer simply the
successful, aggressive male, -- the man of strength, resource,
and intrepidity. In order to avoid stultification he must also
cultivate his tastes, for it now becomes incumbent on him to
discriminate with some nicety between the noble and the ignoble
in consumable goods. He becomes a connoisseur in creditable
viands of various degrees of merit, in manly beverages and
trinkets, in seemly apparel and architecture, in weapons, games,
dancers, and the narcotics. This cultivation of aesthetic faculty
requires time and application, and the demands made upon the
gentleman in this direction therefore tend to change his life of
leisure into a more or less arduous application to the business
of learning how to live a life of ostensible leisure in a
becoming way. Closely related to the requirement that the
gentleman must consume freely and of the right kind of goods,
there is the requirement that he must know how to consume them in
a seemly manner. His life of leisure must be conducted in due
form. Hence arise good manners in the way pointed out in an
earlier chapter. High-bred manners and ways of living are items
of conformity to the norm of conspicuous leisure and conspicuous

Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of
reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates
on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to
sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid
of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting
to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and
entertainments. Presents and feasts had probably another origin
than that of naive ostentation, but they required their utility
for this purpose very early, and they have retained that
character to the present; so that their utility in this respect
has now long been the substantial ground on which these usages
rest. Costly entertainments, such as the potlatch or the ball,
are peculiarly adapted to serve this end. The competitor with
whom the entertainer wishes to institute a comparison is, by this
method, made to serve as a means to the end. He consumes
vicariously for his host at the same time that he is witness to
the consumption of that excess of good things which his host is
unable to dispose of single-handed, and he is also made to
witness his host's facility in etiquette.

In the giving of costly entertainments other motives, of more
genial kind, are of course also present. The custom of festive
gatherings probably originated in motives of conviviality and
religion; these motives are also present in the later
development, but they do not continue to be the sole motives. The
latter-day leisure-class festivities and entertainments may
continue in some slight degree to serve the religious need and in
a higher degree the needs of recreation and conviviality, but
they also serve an invidious purpose; and they serve it none the
less effectually for having a colorable non-invidious ground in
these more avowable motives. But the economic effect of these
social amenities is not therefore lessened, either in the
vicarious consumption of goods or in the exhibition of difficult
and costly achievements in etiquette.

As wealth accumulates, the leisure class develops further in
function and structure, and there arises a differentiation within
the class. There is a more or less elaborate system of rank and
grades. This differentiation is furthered by the inheritance of
wealth and the consequent inheritance of gentility. With the
inheritance of gentility goes the inheritance of obligatory
leisure; and gentility of a sufficient potency to entail a life
of leisure may be inherited without the complement of wealth
required to maintain a dignified leisure. Gentle blood may be
transmitted without goods enough to afford a reputably free
consumption at one's ease. Hence results a class of impecunious
gentlemen of leisure, incidentally referred to already. These
half-caste gentlemen of leisure fall into a system of
hierarchical gradations. Those who stand near the higher and the
highest grades of the wealthy leisure class, in point of birth,
or in point of wealth, or both, outrank the remoter-born and the
pecuniarily weaker. These lower grades, especially the
impecunious, or marginal, gentlemen of leisure, affiliate
themselves by a system of dependence or fealty to the great ones;
by so doing they gain an increment of repute, or of the means
with which to lead a life of leisure, from their patron. They
become his courtiers or retainers, servants; and being fed and
countenanced by their patron they are indices of his rank and
vicarious consumer of his superfluous wealth. Many of these
affiliated gentlemen of leisure are at the same time lesser men
of substance in their own right; so that some of them are
scarcely at all, others only partially, to be rated as vicarious
consumers. So many of them, however, as make up the retainer and
hangers-on of the patron may be classed as vicarious consumer
without qualification. Many of these again, and also many of the
other aristocracy of less degree, have in turn attached to their
persons a more or less comprehensive group of vicarious consumer
in the persons of their wives and children, their servants,
retainers, etc.

Throughout this graduated scheme of vicarious leisure and
vicarious consumption the rule holds that these offices must be
performed in some such manner, or under some such circumstance or
insignia, as shall point plainly to the master to whom this
leisure or consumption pertains, and to whom therefore the
resulting increment of good repute of right inures. The
consumption and leisure executed by these persons for their
master or patron represents an investment on his part with a view
to an increase of good fame. As regards feasts and largesses this
is obvious enough, and the imputation of repute to the host or
patron here takes place immediately, on the ground of common
notoriety. Where leisure and consumption is performed
vicariously by henchmen and retainers, imputation of the
resulting repute to the patron is effected by their residing near
his person so that it may be plain to all men from what source
they draw. As the group whose good esteem is to be secured in
this way grows larger, more patent means are required to indicate
the imputation of merit for the leisure performed, and to this
end uniforms, badges, and liveries come into vogue. The wearing
of uniforms or liveries implies a considerable degree of
dependence, and may even be said to be a mark of servitude, real
or ostensible. The wearers of uniforms and liveries may be
roughly divided into two classes-the free and the servile, or the
noble and the ignoble. The services performed by them are
likewise divisible into noble and ignoble. Of course the
distinction is not observed with strict consistency in practice;
the less debasing of the base services and the less honorific of
the noble functions are not infrequently merged in the same
person. But the general distinction is not on that account to be
overlooked. What may add some perplexity is the fact that this
fundamental distinction between noble and ignoble, which rests on
the nature of the ostensible service performed, is traversed by a
secondary distinction into honorific and humiliating, resting on
the rank of the person for whom the service is performed or whose
livery is worn. So, those offices which are by right the proper
employment of the leisure class are noble; such as government,
fighting, hunting, the care of arms and accoutrements, and the
like -- in short, those which may be classed as ostensibly
predatory employments. On the other hand, those employments which
properly fall to the industrious class are ignoble; such as
handicraft or other productive labor, menial services and the
like. But a base service performed for a person of very high
degree may become a very honorific office; as for instance the
office of a Maid of Honor or of a Lady in Waiting to the Queen,
or the King's Master of the Horse or his Keeper of the Hounds.
The two offices last named suggest a principle of some general
bearing. Whenever, as in these cases, the menial service in
question has to do directly with the primary leisure employments
of fighting and hunting, it easily acquires a reflected honorific
character. In this way great honor may come to attach to an
employment which in its own nature belongs to the baser sort.
In the later development of peaceable industry, the usage of
employing an idle corps of uniformed men-at-arms gradually
lapses. Vicarious consumption by dependents bearing the insignia
of their patron or master narrows down to a corps of liveried
menials. In a heightened degree, therefore, the livery comes to
be a badge of servitude, or rather servility. Something of a
honorific character always attached to the livery of the armed
retainer, but this honorific character disappears when the livery
becomes the exclusive badge of the menial. The livery becomes
obnoxious to nearly all who are required to wear it. We are yet
so little removed from a state of effective slavery as still to
be fully sensitive to the sting of any imputation of servility.
This antipathy asserts itself even in the case of the liveries or
uniforms which some corporations prescribe as the distinctive
dress of their employees. In this country the aversion even goes
the length of discrediting -- in a mild and uncertain way --
those government employments, military and civil, which require
the wearing of a livery or uniform.

With the disappearance of servitude, the number of vicarious
consumers attached to any one gentleman tends, on the whole, to
decrease. The like is of course true, and perhaps in a still
higher degree, of the number of dependents who perform vicarious
leisure for him. In a general way, though not wholly nor
consistently, these two groups coincide. The dependent who was
first delegated for these duties was the wife, or the chief wife;
and, as would be expected, in the later development of the
institution, when the number of persons by whom these duties are
customarily performed gradually narrows, the wife remains the
last. In the higher grades of society a large volume of both
these kinds of service is required; and here the wife is of
course still assisted in the work by a more or less numerous
corps of menials. But as we descend the social scale, the point
is presently reached where the duties of vicarious leisure and
consumption devolve upon the wife alone. In the communities of
the Western culture, this point is at present found among the
lower middle class.

And here occurs a curious inversion. It is a fact of common
observance that in this lower middle class there is no pretense
of leisure on the part of the head of the household. Through
force of circumstances it has fallen into disuse. But the
middle-class wife still carries on the business of vicarious
leisure, for the good name of the household and its master. In
descending the social scale in any modern industrial community,
the primary fact-the conspicuous leisure of the master of the
household-disappears at a relatively high point. The head of the
middle-class household has been reduced by economic circumstances
to turn his hand to gaining a livelihood by occupations which
often partake largely of the character of industry, as in the
case of the ordinary business man of today. But the derivative
fact-the vicarious leisure and consumption rendered by the wife,
and the auxiliary vicarious performance of leisure by
menials-remains in vogue as a conventionality which the demands
of reputability will not suffer to be slighted. It is by no means
an uncommon spectacle to find a man applying himself to work with
the utmost assiduity, in order that his wife may in due form
render for him that degree of vicarious leisure which the common
sense of the time demands.

The leisure rendered by the wife in such cases is, of course, not
a simple manifestation of idleness or indolence. It almost
invariably occurs disguised under some form of work or household
duties or social amenities, which prove on analysis to serve
little or no ulterior end beyond showing that she does not occupy
herself with anything that is gainful or that is of substantial
use. As has already been noticed under the head of manners, the
greater part of the customary round of domestic cares to which
the middle-class housewife gives her time and effort is of this
character. Not that the results of her
attention to household matters, of a decorative and mundificatory
character, are not pleasing to the sense of men trained in
middle-class proprieties; but the taste to which these effects of
household adornment and tidiness appeal is a taste which has been
formed under the selective guidance of a canon of propriety that
demands just these evidences of wasted effort. The effects are
pleasing to us chiefly because we have been taught to find them
pleasing. There goes into these domestic duties much solicitude
for a proper combination of form and color, and for other ends
that are to be classed as aesthetic in the proper sense of the
term; and it is not denied that effects having some substantial
aesthetic value are sometimes attained. Pretty much all that is
here insisted on is that, as regards these amenities of life, the
housewife's efforts are under the guidance of traditions that
have been shaped by the law of conspicuously wasteful expenditure
of time and substance. If beauty or comfort is achieved-and it is
a more or less fortuitous circumstance if they are-they must be
achieved by means and methods that commend themselves to the
great economic law of wasted effort. The more reputable,
"presentable" portion of middle-class household paraphernalia
are, on the one hand, items of conspicuous consumption, and on
the other hand, apparatus for putting in evidence the vicarious
leisure rendered by the housewife.

The requirement of vicarious consumption at the hands of the wife
continues in force even at a lower point in the pecuniary scale
than the requirement of vicarious leisure. At a point below which
little if any pretense of wasted effort, in ceremonial cleanness
and the like, is observable, and where there is
assuredly no conscious attempt at ostensible leisure, decency
still requires the wife to consume some goods conspicuously for
the reputability of the household and its head. So that, as the
latter-day outcome of this evolution of an archaic institution,
the wife, who was at the outset the drudge and chattel of the
man, both in fact and in theory -- the producer of goods for him
to consume -- has become the ceremonial consumer of goods which
he produces. But she still quite unmistakably remains his chattel
in theory; for the habitual rendering of vicarious leisure and
consumption is the abiding mark of the unfree servant.

This vicarious consumption practiced by the household of the
middle and lower classes can not be counted as a direct
expression of the leisure-class scheme of life, since the
household of this pecuniary grade does not belong within the
leisure class. It is rather that the leisure-class scheme of life
here comes to an expression at the second remove. The leisure
class stands at the head of the social structure in point of
reputability; and its manner of life and its standards of worth
therefore afford the norm of reputability for the community. The
observance of these standards, in some degree of approximation,
becomes incumbent upon all classes lower in the scale. In modern
civilized communities the lines of demarcation between social
classes have grown vague and transient, and wherever this happens
the norm of reputability imposed by the upper class extends its
coercive influence with but slight hindrance down through the
social structure to the lowest strata. The result is that the
members of each stratum accept as their ideal of decency the
scheme of life in vogue in the next higher stratum, and bend
their energies to live up to that ideal. On pain of forfeiting
their good name and their self-respect in case of failure, they
must conform to the accepted code, at least in appearance.
The basis on which good repute in any highly organized industrial
community ultimately rests is pecuniary strength; and the means
of showing pecuniary strength, and so of gaining or retaining a
good name, are leisure and a conspicuous consumption of goods.
Accordingly, both of these methods are in vogue as far down the
scale as it remains possible; and in the lower strata in which
the two methods are employed, both offices are in great part
delegated to the wife and children of the household. Lower still,
where any degree of leisure, even ostensible, has become
impracticable for the wife, the conspicuous consumption of goods
remains and is carried on by the wife and children. The man of
the household also can do something in this direction, and
indeed, he commonly does; but with a still lower descent into the
levels of indigence -- along the margin of the slums -- the man,
and presently also the children, virtually cease to consume
valuable goods for appearances, and the woman remains virtually
the sole exponent of the household's pecuniary decency. No class
of society, not even the most abjectly poor, forgoes all
customary conspicuous consumption. The last items of this
category of consumption are not given up except under stress of
the direst necessity. Very much of squalor and discomfort will be
endured before the last trinket or the last pretense of pecuniary
decency is put away. There is no class and no country that has
yielded so abjectly before the pressure of physical want as to
deny themselves all gratification of this higher or spiritual

From the foregoing survey of the growth of conspicuous leisure
and consumption, it appears that the utility of both alike for
the purposes of reputability lies in the element of waste that is
common to both. In the one case it is a waste of time and effort,
in the other it is a waste of goods. Both are methods of
demonstrating the possession of wealth, and the two are
conventionally accepted as equivalents. The choice between them
is a question of advertising expediency simply, except so far as
it may be affected by other standards of propriety, springing
from a different source. On grounds of expediency the preference
may be given to the one or the other at different stages of the
economic development. The question is, which of the two methods
will most effectively reach the persons whose
convictions it is desired to affect. Usage has answered this
question in different ways under different circumstances.

So long as the community or social group is small enough and
compact enough to be effectually reached by common notoriety
alone that is to say, so long as the human environment to which
the individual is required to adapt himself in respect of
reputability is comprised within his sphere of personal
acquaintance and neighborhood gossip -- so long the one method is
about as effective as the other. Each will therefore serve about
equally well during the earlier stages of social growth. But when
the differentiation has gone farther and it becomes necessary to
reach a wider human environment, consumption begins to hold over
leisure as an ordinary means of decency. This is especially true
during the later, peaceable economic stage. The means of
communication and the mobility of the population now expose the
individual to the observation of many persons who have no other
means of judging of his reputability than the display of goods
(and perhaps of breeding) which he is able to make while he is
under their direct observation.

The modern organization of industry works in the same direction
also by another line. The exigencies of the modern industrial
system frequently place individuals and households in
juxtaposition between whom there is little contact in any other
sense than that of juxtaposition. One's neighbors, mechanically
speaking, often are socially not one's neighbors, or even
acquaintances; and still their transient good opinion has a high
degree of utility. The only practicable means of impressing one's
pecuniary ability on these unsympathetic observers of one's
everyday life is an unremitting demonstration of ability to pay.
In the modern community there is also a more frequent attendance
at large gatherings of people to whom one's everyday life is
unknown; in such places as churches, theaters, ballrooms, hotels,
parks, shops, and the like. In order to impress these transient
observers, and to retain one's self-complacency under their
observation, the signature of one's pecuniary strength should be
written in characters which he who runs may read. It is evident,
therefore, that the present trend of the development is in the
direction of heightening the utility of conspicuous consumption
as compared with leisure.

It is also noticeable that the serviceability of consumption as a
means of repute, as well as the insistence on it as an element of
decency, is at its best in those portions of the community where
the human contact of the individual is widest and the mobility of
the population is greatest. Conspicuous
consumption claims a relatively larger portion of the income of
the urban than of the rural population, and the claim is also
more imperative. The result is that, in order to keep up a decent
appearance, the former habitually live hand-to-mouth to a greater
extent than the latter. So it comes, for instance, that the
American farmer and his wife and daughters are notoriously less
modish in their dress, as well as less urbane in their manners,
than the city artisan's family with an equal income. It is not
that the city population is by nature much more eager for the
peculiar complacency that comes of a conspicuous consumption, nor
has the rural population less regard for pecuniary decency. But
the provocation to this line of evidence, as well as its
transient effectiveness, is more decided in the city. This method
is therefore more readily resorted to, and in the struggle to
outdo one another the city population push their normal standard
of conspicuous consumption to a higher point, with the result
that a relatively greater expenditure in this direction is
required to indicate a given degree of pecuniary decency in the
city. The requirement of conformity to this higher conventional
standard becomes mandatory. The standard of decency is higher,
class for class, and this requirement of decent appearance must
be lived up to on pain of losing caste.

Consumption becomes a larger element in the standard of living in
the city than in the country. Among the country
population its place is to some extent taken by savings and home
comforts known through the medium of neighborhood gossip
sufficiently to serve the like general purpose of Pecuniary
repute. These home comforts and the leisure indulged in -- where
the indulgence is found -- are of course also in great part to be
classed as items of conspicuous consumption; and much the same is
to be said of the savings. The smaller amount of the savings laid
by by the artisan class is no doubt due, in some measure, to the
fact that in the case of the artisan the savings are a less
effective means of advertisement, relative to the environment in
which he is placed, than are the savings of the people living on
farms and in the small villages. Among the latter, everybody's
affairs, especially everybody's pecuniary status, are known to
everybody else. Considered by itself simply -- taken in the first
degree -- this added provocation to which the artisan and the
urban laboring classes are exposed may not very seriously
decrease the amount of savings; but in its cumulative action,
through raising the standard of decent expenditure, its deterrent
effect on the tendency to save cannot but be very great.

A felicitous illustration of the manner in which this canon of
reputability works out its results is seen in the practice of
dram-drinking, "treating," and smoking in public places, which is
customary among the laborers and handicraftsmen of the towns, and
among the lower middle class of the urban population generally
Journeymen printers may be named as a class among whom this form
of conspicuous consumption has a great vogue, and among whom it
carries with it certain well-marked consequences that are often
deprecated. The peculiar habits of the class in this respect are
commonly set down to some kind of an ill-defined moral deficiency
with which this class is credited, or to a morally deleterious
influence which their occupation is supposed to exert, in some
unascertainable way, upon the men employed in it. The state of
the case for the men who work in the composition and press rooms
of the common run of printing-houses may be summed up as follows.
Skill acquired in any printing-house or any city is easily turned
to account in almost any other house or city; that is to say, the
inertia due to special training is slight. Also, this occupation
requires more than the average of intelligence and general
information, and the men employed in it are therefore ordinarily
more ready than many others to take advantage of any slight
variation in the demand for their labor from one place to
another. The inertia due to the home feeling is consequently also
slight. At the same time the wages in the trade are high enough
to make movement from place to place relatively easy. The result
is a great mobility of the labor employed in printing; perhaps
greater than in any other equally well-defined and considerable
body of workmen. These men are constantly thrown in contact with
new groups of acquaintances, with whom the relations established
are transient or ephemeral, but whose good opinion is valued none
the less for the time being. The human proclivity to ostentation,
reenforced by sentiments of good-fellowship, leads them to spend
freely in those directions which will best serve these needs.
Here as elsewhere prescription seizes upon the custom as soon as
it gains a vogue, and incorporates it in the accredited standard
of decency. The next step is to make this standard of decency the
point of departure for a new move in advance in the same
direction -- for there is no merit in simple spiritless
conformity to a standard of dissipation that is lived up to as a
matter of course by everyone in the trade.

The greater prevalence of dissipation among printers than among
the average of workmen is accordingly attributable, at least in
some measure, to the greater ease of movement and the more
transient character of acquaintance and human contact in this
trade. But the substantial ground of this high requirement in
dissipation is in the last analysis no other than that same
propensity for a manifestation of dominance and pecuniary decency
which makes the French peasant-proprietor parsimonious and
frugal, and induces the American millionaire to found colleges,
hospitals and museums. If the canon of conspicuous consumption
were not offset to a considerable extent by other features of
human nature, alien to it, any saving should logically be
impossible for a population situated as the artisan and laboring
classes of the cities are at present, however high their wages or
their income might be.

But there are other standards of repute and other, more or less
imperative, canons of conduct, besides wealth and its
manifestation, and some of these come in to accentuate or to
qualify the broad, fundamental canon of conspicuous waste. Under
the simple test of effectiveness for advertising, we should
expect to find leisure and the conspicuous consumption of goods
dividing the field of pecuniary emulation pretty evenly between
them at the outset. Leisure might then be expected gradually to
yield ground and tend to obsolescence as the economic development
goes forward, and the community increases in size; while the
conspicuous consumption of goods should gradually gain in
importance, both absolutely and relatively, until it had absorbed
all the available product, leaving nothing over beyond a bare
livelihood. But the actual course of development has been
somewhat different from this ideal scheme. Leisure held the first
place at the start, and came to hold a rank very much above
wasteful consumption of goods, both as a direct exponent of
wealth and as an element in the standard of decency, during the
quasi-peaceable culture. From that point onward, consumption has
gained ground, until, at present, it unquestionably holds the
primacy, though it is still far from absorbing the entire margin
of production above the subsistence minimum.

The early ascendency of leisure as a means of reputability is
traceable to the archaic distinction between noble and ignoble
employments. Leisure is honorable and becomes imperative partly
because it shows exemption from ignoble labor. The archaic
differentiation into noble and ignoble classes is based on an
invidious distinction between employments as honorific or
debasing; and this traditional distinction grows into an
imperative canon of decency during the early quasi-peaceable
stage. Its ascendency is furthered by the fact that leisure is
still fully as effective an evidence of wealth as consumption.
Indeed, so effective is it in the relatively small and stable
human environment to which the individual is exposed at that
cultural stage, that, with the aid of the archaic tradition which
deprecates all productive labor, it gives rise to a large
impecunious leisure class, and it even tends to limit the
production of the community's industry to the subsistence
minimum. This extreme inhibition of industry is avoided because
slave labor, working under a compulsion more vigorous than that
of reputability, is forced to turn out a product in excess of the
subsistence minimum of the working class. The subsequent relative
decline in the use of conspicuous leisure as a basis of repute is
due partly to an increasing relative effectiveness of consumption
as an evidence of wealth; but in part it is traceable to another
force, alien, and in some degree antagonistic, to the usage of
conspicuous waste.

This alien factor is the instinct of workmanship. Other
circumstances permitting, that instinct disposes men to look with
favor upon productive efficiency and on whatever is of human use.
It disposes them to deprecate waste of substance or effort. The
instinct of workmanship is present in all men, and asserts itself
even under very adverse circumstances. So that however wasteful a
given expenditure may be in reality, it must at least have some
colorable excuse in the way of an ostensible purpose. The manner
in which, under special circumstances, the instinct eventuates in
a taste for exploit and an invidious discrimination between noble
and ignoble classes has been indicated in an earlier chapter. In
so far as it comes into conflict with the law of conspicuous
waste, the instinct of workmanship expresses itself not so much
in insistence on substantial usefulness as in an abiding sense of
the odiousness and aesthetic impossibility of what is obviously
futile. Being of the nature of an instinctive affection, its
guidance touches chiefly and immediately the obvious and apparent
violations of its requirements. It is only less promptly and with
less constraining force that it reaches such substantial
violations of its requirements as are appreciated only upon

So long as all labor continues to be performed exclusively or
usually by slaves, the baseness of all productive effort is too
constantly and deterrently present in the mind of men to allow
the instinct of workmanship seriously to take effect in the
direction of industrial usefulness; but when the quasi-peaceable
stage (with slavery and status) passes into the peaceable stage
of industry (with wage labor and cash payment) the instinct comes
more effectively into play. It then begins aggressively to shape
men's views of what is meritorious, and asserts itself at least
as an auxiliary canon of self-complacency. All extraneous
considerations apart, those persons (adult) are but a vanishing
minority today who harbor no inclination to the accomplishment of
some end, or who are not impelled of their own motion to shape
some object or fact or relation for human use. The propensity may
in large measure be overborne by the more immediately
constraining incentive to a reputable leisure and an avoidance of
indecorous usefulness, and it may therefore work itself out in
make-believe only; as for instance in "social duties," and in
quasi-artistic or quasi-scholarly accomplishments, in the care
and decoration of the house, in sewing-circle activity or dress
reform, in proficiency at dress, cards, yachting, golf, and
various sports. But the fact that it may under stress of
circumstances eventuate in inanities no more disproves the
presence of the instinct than the reality of the brooding
instinct is disproved by inducing a hen to sit on a nestful of
china eggs.

This latter-day uneasy reaching-out for some form of
purposeful activity that shall at the same time not be
indecorously productive of either individual or collective gain
marks a difference of attitude between the modern leisure class
and that of the quasi-peaceable stage. At the earlier stage, as
was said above, the all-dominating institution of slavery and
status acted resistlessly to discountenance exertion directed to
other than naively predatory ends. It was still possible to find
some habitual employment for the inclination to action in the way
of forcible aggression or repression directed against hostile
groups or against the subject classes within the group; and this
sewed to relieve the pressure and draw off the energy of the
leisure class without a resort to actually useful, or even
ostensibly useful employments. The practice of hunting also sewed
the same purpose in some degree. When the community developed
into a peaceful industrial organization, and when fuller
occupation of the land had reduced the opportunities for the hunt
to an inconsiderable residue, the pressure of energy seeking
purposeful employment was left to find an outlet in some other
direction. The ignominy which attaches to useful effort also
entered upon a less acute phase with the disappearance of
compulsory labor; and the instinct of workmanship then came to
assert itself with more persistence and consistency.

The line of least resistance has changed in some measure, and the
energy which formerly found a vent in predatory activity, now in
part takes the direction of some ostensibly useful end.
Ostensibly purposeless leisure has come to be deprecated,
especially among that large portion of the leisure class whose
plebeian origin acts to set them at variance with the tradition
of the otium cum dignitate. But that canon of reputability which
discountenances all employment that is of the nature of
productive effort is still at hand, and will permit nothing
beyond the most transient vogue to any employment that is
substantially useful or productive. The consequence is that a
change has been wrought in the conspicuous leisure practiced by
the leisure class; not so much in substance as in form. A
reconciliation between the two conflicting requirements is
effected by a resort to make-believe. Many and intricate polite
observances and social duties of a ceremonial nature are
developed; many organizations are founded, with some specious
object of amelioration embodied in their official style and
title; there is much coming and going, and a deal of talk, to the
end that the talkers may not have occasion to reflect on what is
the effectual economic value of their traffic. And along with the
make-believe of purposeful employment, and woven inextricably
into its texture, there is commonly, if not invariably, a more or
less appreciable element of purposeful effort directed to some
serious end.

In the narrower sphere of vicarious leisure a similar change has
gone forward. Instead of simply passing her time in visible
idleness, as in the best days of the patriarchal regime, the
housewife of the advanced peaceable stage applies herself
assiduously to household cares. The salient features of this
development of domestic service have already been indicated.
Throughout the entire evolution of conspicuous expenditure,
whether of goods or of services or human life, runs the obvious
implication that in order to effectually mend the consumer's good
fame it must be an expenditure of superfluities. In order to be
reputable it must be wasteful. No merit would accrue from the
consumption of the bare necessaries of life, except by comparison
with the abjectly poor who fall short even of the subsistence
minimum; and no standard of expenditure could result from such a
comparison, except the most prosaic and unattractive level of
decency. A standard of life would still be possible which should
admit of invidious comparison in other respects than that of
opulence; as, for instance, a comparison in various directions in
the manifestation of moral, physical, intellectual, or aesthetic
force. Comparison in all these directions is in vogue today; and
the comparison made in these respects is commonly so inextricably
bound up with the pecuniary comparison as to be scarcely
distinguishable from the latter. This is especially true as
regards the current rating of expressions of intellectual and
aesthetic force or proficiency' so that we frequently interpret
as aesthetic or intellectual a difference which in substance is
pecuniary only.

The use of the term "waste" is in one respect an unfortunate one.
As used in the speech of everyday life the word carries an
undertone of deprecation. It is here used for want of a better
term that will adequately describe the same range of motives and
of phenomena, and it is not to be taken in an odious sense, as
implying an illegitimate expenditure of human products or of
human life. In the view of economic theory the expenditure in
question is no more and no less legitimate than any other
expenditure. It is here called "waste" because this expenditure
does not serve human life or human well-being on the whole, not
because it is waste or misdirection of effort or expenditure as
viewed from the standpoint of the individual consumer who chooses
it. If he chooses it, that disposes of the question of its
relative utility to him, as compared with other forms of
consumption that would not be deprecated on account of their
wastefulness. Whatever form of expenditure the consumer chooses,
or whatever end he seeks in making his choice, has utility to him
by virtue of his preference. As seen from the point of view of
the individual consumer, the question of wastefulness does not
arise within the scope of economic theory proper. The use of the
word "waste" as a technical term, therefore, implies no
deprecation of the motives or of the ends sought by the consumer
under this canon of conspicuous waste.

But it is, on other grounds, worth noting that the term "waste"
in the language of everyday life implies deprecation of what is
characterized as wasteful. This common-sense implication is
itself an outcropping of the instinct of workmanship. The popular
reprobation of waste goes to say that in order to be at peace
with himself the common man must be able to see in any and all
human effort and human enjoyment an enhancement of life and
well-being on the whole. In order to meet with unqualified
approval, any economic fact must approve itself under the test of
impersonal usefulness -- usefulness as seen from the point of view
of the generically human. Relative or competitive advantage of
one individual in comparison with another does not satisfy the
economic conscience, and therefore competitive expenditure has
not the approval of this conscience.

In strict accuracy nothing should be included under the head of
conspicuous waste but such expenditure as is incurred on the
ground of an invidious pecuniary comparison. But in order to
bring any given item or element in under this head it is not
necessary that it should be recognized as waste in this sense by
the person incurring the expenditure. It frequently happens that
an element of the standard of living which set out with being
primarily wasteful, ends with becoming, in the apprehension of
the consumer, a necessary of life; and it may in this way become
as indispensable as any other item of the consumer's habitual
expenditure. As items which sometimes fall under this head, and
are therefore available as illustrations of the manner in which
this principle applies, may be cited carpets and tapestries,
silver table service, waiter's services, silk hats, starched
linen, many articles of jewelry and of dress. The
indispensability of these things after the habit and the
convention have been formed, however, has little to say in the
classification of expenditures as waste or not waste in the
technical meaning of the word. The test to which all expenditure
must be brought in an attempt to decide that point is the
question whether it serves directly to enhance human life on the
whole-whether it furthers the life process taken impersonally.
For this is the basis of award of the instinct of workmanship,
and that instinct is the court of final appeal in any question of
economic truth or adequacy. It is a question as to the award
rendered by a dispassionate common sense. The question is,
therefore, not whether, under the existing circumstances of
individual habit and social custom, a given expenditure conduces
to the particular consumer's gratification or peace of mind; but
whether, aside from acquired tastes and from the canons of usage
and conventional decency, its result is a net gain in comfort or
in the fullness of life. Customary expenditure must be classed
under the head of waste in so far as the custom on which it rests
is traceable to the habit of making an invidious pecuniary
comparison-in so far as it is conceived that it could not have
become customary and prescriptive without the backing of this
principle of pecuniary reputability or relative economic success.
It is obviously not necessary that a given object of
expenditure should be exclusively wasteful in order to come in
under the category of conspicuous waste. An article may be useful
and wasteful both, and its utility to the consumer may be made up
of use and waste in the most varying proportions. Consumable
goods, and even productive goods, generally show the two elements
in combination, as constituents of their utility; although, in a
general way, the element of waste tends to predominate in
articles of consumption, while the contrary is true of articles
designed for productive use. Even in articles which appear at
first glance to serve for pure ostentation only, it is always
possible to detect the presence of some, at least ostensible,
useful purpose; and on the other hand, even in special machinery
and tools contrived for some particular industrial process, as
well as in the rudest appliances of human industry, the traces of
conspicuous waste, or at least of the habit of ostentation,
usually become evident on a close scrutiny. It would be hazardous
to assert that a useful purpose is ever absent from the utility
of any article or of any service, however obviously its prime
purpose and chief element is conspicuous waste; and it would be
only less hazardous to assert of any primarily useful product
that the element of waste is in no way concerned in its value,
immediately or remotely.

Chapter Five

The Pecuniary Standard of Living

For the great body of the people in any modern community, the
proximate ground of expenditure in excess of what is required for
physical comfort is not a conscious effort to excel in the
expensiveness of their visible consumption, so much as it is a
desire to live up to the conventional standard of decency in the
amount and grade of goods consumed. This desire is not guided by
a rigidly invariable standard, which must be lived up to, and
beyond which there is no incentive to go. The standard is
flexible; and especially it is indefinitely extensible, if only
time is allowed for habituation to any increase in pecuniary
ability and for acquiring facility in the new and larger scale of
expenditure that follows such an increase. It is much more
difficult to recede from a scale of expenditure once adopted than
it is to extend the accustomed scale in response to an accession
of wealth. Many items of customary expenditure prove on analysis
to be almost purely wasteful, and they are therefore honorific
only, but after they have once been incorporated into the scale
of decent consumption, and so have become an integral part of
one's scheme of life, it is quite as hard to give up these as it
is to give up many items that conduce directly to one's physical
comfort, or even that may be necessary to life and health. That
is to say, the conspicuously wasteful honorific expenditure that
confers spiritual well-being may become more indispensable than
much of that expenditure which ministers to the "lower" wants of
physical well-being or sustenance only. It is notoriously just as
difficult to recede from a "high" standard of living as it is to
lower a standard which is already relatively low; although in the
former case the difficulty is a moral one, while in the latter it
may involve a material deduction from the physical comforts of

But while retrogression is difficult, a fresh advance in
conspicuous expenditure is relatively easy; indeed, it takes
place almost as a matter of course. In the rare cases where it
occurs, a failure to increase one's visible consumption when the
means for an increase are at hand is felt in popular apprehension
to call for explanation, and unworthy motives of miserliness are
imputed to those who fall short in this respect. A prompt
response to the stimulus, on the other hand, is accepted as the
normal effect. This suggests that the standard of expenditure
which commonly guides our efforts is not the average, ordinary
expenditure already achieved; it is an ideal of consumption that
lies just beyond our reach, or to reach which requires some
strain. The motive is emulation -- the stimulus of an invidious
comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in
the habit of classing ourselves. Substantially the same
proposition is expressed in the commonplace remark that each
class envies and emulates the class next above it in the social
scale, while it rarely compares itself with those below or with
those who are considerably in advance. That is to say, in other
words, our standard of decency in expenditure, as in other ends
of emulation, is set by the usage of those next above us in
reputability; until, in this way, especially in any community
where class distinctions are somewhat vague, all canons of
reputability and decency, and all standards of consumption, are
traced back by insensible gradations to the usages and habits of
thought of the highest social and pecuniary class -- the wealthy
leisure class.

It is for this class to determine, in general outline, what
scheme of Life the community shall accept as decent or honorific;
and it is their office by precept and example to set forth this
scheme of social salvation in its highest, ideal form. But the
higher leisure class can exercise this quasi-sacerdotal office
only under certain material limitations. The class cannot at
discretion effect a sudden revolution or reversal of the popular
habits of thought with respect to any of these ceremonial
requirements. It takes time for any change to permeate the mass
and change the habitual attitude of the people; and especially it
takes time to change the habits of those classes that are
socially more remote from the radiant body. The process is slower
where the mobility of the population is less or where the
intervals between the several classes are wider and more abrupt.
But if time be allowed, the scope of the discretion of the
leisure class as regards questions of form and detail in the
community's scheme of life is large; while as regards the
substantial principles of reputability, the changes which it can
effect lie within a narrow margin of tolerance. Its example and
precept carries the force of prescription for all classes below
it; but in working out the precepts which are handed down as
governing the form and method of reputability -- in shaping the
usages and the spiritual attitude of the lower classes -- this
authoritative prescription constantly works under the selective
guidance of the canon of conspicuous waste, tempered in varying
degree by the instinct of workmanship. To those norms is to be
added another broad principle of human nature -- the predatory
animus -- which in point of generality and of psychological
content lies between the two just named. The effect of the latter
in shaping the accepted scheme of life is yet to be discussed.
The canon of reputability, then, must adapt itself to the
economic circumstances, the traditions, and the degree of
spiritual maturity of the particular class whose scheme of life
it is to regulate. It is especially to be noted that however high
its authority and however true to the fundamental requirements of
reputability it may have been at its inception, a specific formal
observance can under no circumstances maintain itself in force if
with the lapse of time or on its transmission to a lower
pecuniary class it is found to run counter to the ultimate ground
of decency among civilized peoples, namely, serviceability for
the purpose of an invidious comparison in pecuniary success.
It is evident that these canons of expenditure have much to say
in determining the standard of living for any community and for
any class. It is no less evident that the standard of living
which prevails at any time or at any given social altitude will
in its turn have much to say as to the forms which honorific
expenditure will take, and as to the degree to which this
"higher" need will dominate a people's consumption. In this
respect the control exerted by the accepted standard of living is
chiefly of a negative character; it acts almost solely to prevent
recession from a scale of conspicuous expenditure that has once
become habitual.

A standard of living is of the nature of habit. It is an habitual
scale and method of responding to given stimuli. The difficulty
in the way of receding from an accustomed standard is the
difficulty of breaking a habit that has once been formed. The
relative facility with which an advance in the standard is made
means that the life process is a process of unfolding activity
and that it will readily unfold in a new direction whenever and
wherever the resistance to self-expression decreases. But when
the habit of expression along such a given line of low resistance
has once been formed, the discharge will seek the accustomed
outlet even after a change has taken place in the environment
whereby the external resistance has appreciably risen. That
heightened facility of expression in a given direction which is
called habit may offset a considerable increase in the resistance
offered by external circumstances to the unfolding of life in the
given direction. As between the various habits, or habitual modes
and directions of expression, which go to make up an individual's
standard of living, there is an appreciable difference in point
of persistence under counteracting circumstances and in point of
the degree of imperativeness with which the discharge seeks a
given direction.

That is to say, in the language of current economic theory, while
men are reluctant to retrench their expenditures in any
direction, they are more reluctant to retrench in some directions
than in others; so that while any accustomed consumption is
reluctantly given up, there are certain lines of consumption
which are given up with relatively extreme reluctance. The
articles or forms of consumption to which the consumer clings
with the greatest tenacity are commonly the so-called necessaries
of life, or the subsistence minimum. The subsistence minimum is
of course not a rigidly determined allowance of goods, definite
and invariable in kind and quantity; but for the purpose in hand
it may be taken to comprise a certain, more or less definite,
aggregate of consumption required for the maintenance of life.
This minimum, it may be assumed, is ordinarily given up last in
case of a progressive retrenchment of expenditure. That is to
say, in a general way, the most ancient and ingrained of the
habits which govern the individual's life -- those habits that
touch his existence as an organism -- are the most persistent and
imperative. Beyond these come the higher wants -- later-formed
habits of the individual or the race -- in a somewhat irregular
and by no means invariable gradation. Some of these higher wants,
as for instance the habitual use of certain stimulants, or the
need of salvation (in the eschatological sense), or of good
repute, may in some cases take precedence of the lower or more
elementary wants. In general, the longer the habituation, the
more unbroken the habit, and the more nearly it coincides with
previous habitual forms of the life process, the more
persistently will the given habit assert itself. The habit will
be stronger if the particular traits of human nature which its
action involves, or the particular aptitudes that find exercise
in it, are traits or aptitudes that are already largely and
profoundly concerned in the life process or that are intimately
bound up with the life history of the particular racial stock.
The varying degrees of ease with which different habits are
formed by different persons, as well as the varying degrees of
reluctance with which different habits are given up, goes to say
that the formation of specific habits is not a matter of length
of habituation simply. Inherited aptitudes and traits of
temperament count for quite as much as length of habituation in
deciding what range of habits will come to dominate any
individual's scheme of life. And the prevalent type of
transmitted aptitudes, or in other words the type of temperament
belonging to the dominant ethnic element in any community, will
go far to decide what will be the scope and form of expression of
the community's habitual life process. How greatly the
transmitted idiosyncrasies of aptitude may count in the way of a
rapid and definitive formation of habit in individuals is
illustrated by the extreme facility with which an all-dominating
habit of alcoholism is sometimes formed; or in the similar
facility and the similarly inevitable formation of a habit of
devout observances in the case of persons gifted with a special
aptitude in that direction. Much the same meaning attaches to
that peculiar facility of habituation to a specific human
environment that is called romantic love.

Men differ in respect of transmitted aptitudes, or in respect of
the relative facility with which they unfold their life activity
in particular directions; and the habits which coincide with or
proceed upon a relatively strong specific aptitude or a
relatively great specific facility of expression become of great
consequence to the man's well-being. The part played by this
element of aptitude in determining the relative tenacity of the
several habits which constitute the standard of living goes to
explain the extreme reluctance with which men give up any
habitual expenditure in the way of conspicuous
consumption. The aptitudes or propensities to which a habit of
this kind is to be referred as its ground are those aptitudes
whose exercise is comprised in emulation; and the propensity for
emulation -- for invidious comparison -- is of ancient growth and
is a pervading trait of human nature. It is easily called into
vigorous activity in any new form, and it asserts itself with
great insistence under any form under which it has once found
habitual expression. When the individual has once formed the
habit of seeking expression in a given line of honorific
expenditure -- when a given set of stimuli have come to be
habitually responded to in activity of a given kind and direction
under the guidance of these alert and deep-reaching propensities
of emulation -- it is with extreme reluctance that such an
habitual expenditure is given up. And on the other hand, whenever
an accession of pecuniary strength puts the individual in a
position to unfold his life process in larger scope and with
additional reach, the ancient propensities of the race will
assert themselves in determining the direction which the new
unfolding of life is to take. And those propensities which are
already actively in the field under some related form of
expression, which are aided by the pointed suggestions afforded
by a current accredited scheme of life, and for the exercise of
which the material means and opportunities are readily available
-- these will especially have much to say in shaping the form and
direction in which the new accession to the individual's
aggregate force will assert itself. That is to say, in concrete
terms, in any community where conspicuous consumption is an
element of the scheme of life, an increase in an individual's
ability to pay is likely to take the form of an expenditure for
some accredited line of conspicuous consumption.

With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the
propensity for emulation is probably the strongest and most alert
and persistent of the economic motives proper. In an industrial
community this propensity for emulation expresses itself in
pecuniary emulation; and this, so far as regards the Western
civilized communities of the present, is virtually equivalent to
saying that it expresses itself in some form of conspicuous
waste. The need of conspicuous waste, therefore, stands ready to
absorb any increase in the community's industrial efficiency or
output of goods, after the most elementary physical wants have
been provided for. Where this result does not follow, under
modern conditions, the reason for the discrepancy is commonly to
be sought in a rate of increase in the individual's wealth too
rapid for the habit of expenditure to keep abreast of it; or it
may be that the individual in question defers the conspicuous
consumption of the increment to a later date -- ordinarily with a
view to heightening the spectacular effect of the aggregate
expenditure contemplated. As increased industrial efficiency
makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less
labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community
are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous
expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace.
The strain is not lightened as industrial efficiency increases
and makes a lighter strain possible, but the increment of output
is turned to use to meet this want, which is indefinitely
expansible, after the manner commonly imputed in economic theory
to higher or spiritual wants. It is owing chiefly to the presence
of this element in the standard of living that J. S. Mill was
able to say that "hitherto it is questionable if all the
mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of
any human being." The accepted standard of expenditure in the
community or in the class to which a person belongs largely
determines what his standard of living will be. It does this
directly by commending itself to his common sense as right and
good, through his habitually contemplating it and assimilating
the scheme of life in which it belongs; but it does so also
indirectly through popular insistence on conformity to the
accepted scale of expenditure as a matter of propriety, under
pain of disesteem and ostracism. To accept and practice the
standard of living which is in vogue is both agreeable and
expedient, commonly to the point of being indispensable to
personal comfort and to success in life. The standard of living
of any class, so far as concerns the element of conspicuous
waste, is commonly as high as the earning capacity of the class
will permit -- with a constant tendency to go higher. The effect
upon the serious activities of men is therefore to direct them
with great singleness of purpose to the largest possible
acquisition of wealth, and to discountenance work that brings no
pecuniary gain. At the same time the effect on consumption is to
concentrate it upon the lines which are most patent to the
observers whose good opinion is sought; while the inclinations
and aptitudes whose exercise does not involve a honorific
expenditure of time or substance tend to fall into abeyance
through disuse.

Through this discrimination in favor of visible consumption it
has come about that the domestic life of most classes is
relatively shabby, as compared with the éclat of that overt
portion of their life that is carried on before the eyes of
observers. As a secondary consequence of the same discrimination,
people habitually screen their private life from observation. So
far as concerns that portion of their consumption that may
without blame be carried on in secret, they withdraw from all
contact with their neighbors, hence the exclusiveness of people,
as regards their domestic life, in most of the industrially
developed communities; and hence, by remoter derivation, the
habit of privacy and reserve that is so large a feature in the
code of proprieties of the better class in all communities. The
low birthrate of the classes upon whom the requirements of
reputable expenditure fall with great urgency is likewise
traceable to the exigencies of a standard of living based on
conspicuous waste. The conspicuous consumption, and the
consequent increased expense, required in the reputable
maintenance of a child is very considerable and acts as a
powerful deterrent. It is probably the most effectual of the
Malthusian prudential checks.

The effect of this factor of the standard of living, both in the
way of retrenchment in the obscurer elements of consumption that
go to physical comfort and maintenance, and also in the paucity
or absence of children, is perhaps seen at its best among the
classes given to scholarly pursuits. Because of a presumed
superiority and scarcity of the gifts and attainments that
characterize their life, these classes are by convention subsumed
under a higher social grade than their pecuniary grade should
warrant. The scale of decent expenditure in their case is pitched
correspondingly high, and it consequently leaves an exceptionally
narrow margin disposable for the other ends of life. By force of
circumstances, their habitual sense of what is good and right in
these matters, as well as the expectations of the community in
the way of pecuniary decency among the learned, are excessively
high -- as measured by the prevalent degree of opulence and
earning capacity of the class, relatively to the non-scholarly
classes whose social equals they nominally are. In any modern
community where there is no priestly monopoly of these
occupations, the people of scholarly pursuits are unavoidably
thrown into contact with classes that are pecuniarily their
superiors. The high standard of pecuniary decency in force among
these superior classes is transfused among the scholarly classes
with but little mitigation of its rigor; and as a consequence
there is no class of the community that spends a larger
proportion of its substance in conspicuous waste than these.

Chapter Six

Pecuniary Canons of Taste

The caution has already been repeated more than once, that while
the regulating norm of consumption is in large part the
requirement of conspicuous waste, it must not be understood that
the motive on which the consumer acts in any given case is this
principle in its bald, unsophisticated form. Ordinarily his
motive is a wish to conform to established usage, to avoid
unfavorable notice and comment, to live up to the accepted canons
of decency in the kind, amount, and grade of goods consumed, as
well as in the decorous employment of his time and effort. In the
common run of cases this sense of prescriptive usage is present
in the motives of the consumer and exerts a direct constraining
force, especially as regards consumption carried on under the
eyes of observers. But a considerable element of prescriptive
expensiveness is observable also in consumption that does not in
any appreciable degree become known to outsiders -- as, for
instance, articles of underclothing, some articles of food,
kitchen utensils, and other household apparatus designed for
service rather than for evidence. In all such useful articles a
close scrutiny will discover certain features which add to the
cost and enhance the commercial value of the goods in question,
but do not proportionately increase the serviceability of these
articles for the material purposes which alone they ostensibly
are designed to serve.

Under the selective surveillance of the law of conspicuous waste
there grows up a code of accredited canons of consumption, the
effect of which is to hold the consumer up to a standard of
expensiveness and wastefulness in his consumption of goods and in
his employment of time and effort. This growth of prescriptive
usage has an immediate effect upon economic life, but it has also
an indirect and remoter effect upon conduct in other respects as
well. Habits of thought with respect to the expression of life in
any given direction unavoidably affect the habitual view of what
is good and right in life in other directions also. In the
organic complex of habits of thought which make up the substance
of an individual's conscious life the economic interest does not
lie isolated and distinct from all other interests. Something,
for instance, has already been said of its relation to the canons
of reputability.

The principle of conspicuous waste guides the formation of habits
of thought as to what is honest and reputable in life and in
commodities. In so doing, this principle will traverse other
norms of conduct which do not primarily have to do with the code
of pecuniary honor, but which have, directly or incidentally, an
economic significance of some magnitude. So the canon of
honorific waste may, immediately or remotely, influence the sense
of duty, the sense of beauty, the sense of utility, the sense of
devotional or ritualistic fitness, and the scientific sense of

It is scarcely necessary to go into a discussion here of the
particular points at which, or the particular manner in which,
the canon of honorific expenditure habitually traverses the
canons of moral conduct. The matter is one which has received
large attention and illustration at the hands of those whose
office it is to watch and admonish with respect to any departures
from the accepted code of morals. In modern communities, where
the dominant economic and legal feature of the community's life
is the institution of private property, one of the salient
features of the code of morals is the sacredness of property.
There needs no insistence or illustration to gain assent to the
proposition that the habit of holding private property inviolate
is traversed by the other habit of seeking wealth for the sake of
the good repute to be gained through its conspicuous consumption.
Most offenses against property, especially offenses of an
appreciable magnitude, come under this head. It is also a matter
of common notoriety and byword that in offenses which result in a
large accession of property to the offender he does not
ordinarily incur the extreme penalty or the extreme obloquy with
which his offenses would be visited on the ground of the naive
moral code alone. The thief or swindler who has gained great
wealth by his delinquency has a better chance than the small
thief of escaping the rigorous penalty of the law and some good
repute accrues to him from his increased wealth and from his
spending the irregularly acquired possessions in a seemly manner.
A well-bred expenditure of his booty especially appeals with
great effect to persons of a cultivated sense of the proprieties,
and goes far to mitigate the sense of moral turpitude with which
his dereliction is viewed by them. It may be noted also -- and it
is more immediately to the point -- that we are all inclined to
condone an offense against property in the case of a man whose
motive is the worthy one of providing the means of a "decent"
manner of life for his wife and children. If it is added that the
wife has been "nurtured in the lap of luxury," that is accepted
as an additional extenuating circumstance. That is to say, we are
prone to condone such an offense where its aim is the honorific
one of enabling the offender's wife to perform for him such an
amount of vicarious consumption of time and substance as is
demanded by the standard of pecuniary decency. In such a case the
habit of approving the accustomed degree of conspicuous waste
traverses the habit of deprecating violations of ownership, to
the extent even of sometimes leaving the award of praise or blame
uncertain. This is peculiarly true where the dereliction involves
an appreciable predatory or piratical element.

This topic need scarcely be pursued further here; but the remark
may not be out of place that all that considerable body of morals
that clusters about the concept of an inviolable ownership is
itself a psychological precipitate of the traditional
meritoriousness of wealth. And it should be added that this
wealth which is held sacred is valued primarily for the sake of
the good repute to be got through its conspicuous consumption.
The bearing of pecuniary decency upon the scientific spirit or
the quest of knowledge will be taken up in some detail in a
separate chapter. Also as regards the sense of devout or ritual
merit and adequacy in this connection, little need be said in
this place. That topic will also come up incidentally in a later
chapter. Still, this usage of honorific expenditure has much to
say in shaping popular tastes as to what is right and meritorious
in sacred matters, and the bearing of the principle of
conspicuous waste upon some of the commonplace devout observances
and conceits may therefore be pointed out.

Obviously, the canon of conspicuous waste is accountable for a
great portion of what may be called devout consumption; as, e.g.,
the consumption of sacred edifices, vestments, and other goods of
the same class. Even in those modern cults to whose divinities is
imputed a predilection for temples not built with hands, the
sacred buildings and the other properties of the cult are
constructed and decorated with some view to a reputable degree of
wasteful expenditure. And it needs but little either of
observation or introspection -- and either will serve the turn --
to assure us that the expensive splendor of the house of worship
has an appreciable uplifting and mellowing effect upon the
worshipper's frame of mind. It will serve to enforce the same
fact if we reflect upon the sense of abject shamefulness with
which any evidence of indigence or squalor about the sacred place
affects all beholders. The accessories of any devout observance
should be pecuniarily above reproach. This requirement is
imperative, whatever latitude may be allowed with regard to these
accessories in point of aesthetic or other serviceability.
It may also be in place to notice that in all communities,
especially in neighborhoods where the standard of pecuniary
decency for dwellings is not high, the local sanctuary is more
ornate, more conspicuously wasteful in its architecture and
decoration, than the dwelling houses of the congregation. This is
true of nearly all denominations and cults, whether Christian or
Pagan, but it is true in a peculiar degree of the older and
maturer cults. At the same time the sanctuary commonly
contributes little if anything to the physical comfort of the
members. Indeed, the sacred structure not only serves the
physical well-being of the members to but a slight extent, as
compared with their humbler dwelling-houses; but it is felt by
all men that a right and enlightened sense of the true, the
beautiful, and the good demands that in all expenditure on the
sanctuary anything that might serve the comfort of the worshipper
should be conspicuously absent. If any element of comfort is
admitted in the fittings of the sanctuary, it should be at least
scrupulously screened and masked under an ostensible austerity.
In the most reputable latter-day houses of worship, where no
expense is spared, the principle of austerity is carried to the
length of making the fittings of the place a means of mortifying
the flesh, especially in appearance. There are few persons of
delicate tastes, in the matter of devout consumption to whom this
austerely wasteful discomfort does not appeal as intrinsically
right and good. Devout consumption is of the nature of vicarious
consumption. This canon of devout austerity is based on the
pecuniary reputability of conspicuously wasteful consumption,
backed by the principle that vicarious consumption should
conspicuously not conduce to the comfort of the vicarious

The sanctuary and its fittings have something of this austerity
in all the cults in which the saint or divinity to whom the
sanctuary pertains is not conceived to be present and make
personal use of the property for the gratification of luxurious
tastes imputed to him. The character of the sacred paraphernalia
is somewhat different in this respect in those cults where the
habits of life imputed to the divinity more nearly approach those
of an earthly patriarchal potentate -- where he is conceived to
make use of these consumable goods in person. In the latter case
the sanctuary and its fittings take on more of the fashion given
to goods destined for the conspicuous consumption of a temporal
master or owner. On the other hand, where the sacred apparatus is
simply employed in the divinity's service, that is to say, where
it is consumed vicariously on his account by his servants, there
the sacred properties take the character suited to goods that are
destined for vicarious consumption only.

In the latter case the sanctuary and the sacred apparatus are so
contrived as not to enhance the comfort or fullness of life of
the vicarious consumer, or at any rate not to convey the
impression that the end of their consumption is the consumer's
comfort. For the end of vicarious consumption is to enhance, not
the fullness of life of the consumer, but the pecuniary repute of
the master for whose behoof the consumption takes place.
Therefore priestly vestments are notoriously expensive, ornate,
and inconvenient; and in the cults where the priestly servitor of
the divinity is not conceived to serve him in the capacity of
consort, they are of an austere, comfortless fashion. And such it
is felt that they should be.

It is not only in establishing a devout standard of decent
expensiveness that the principle of waste invades the domain of
the canons of ritual serviceability. It touches the ways as well
as the means, and draws on vicarious leisure as well as on
vicarious consumption. Priestly demeanor at its best is aloof,
leisurely, perfunctory, and uncontaminated with suggestions of
sensuous pleasure. This holds true, in different degrees of
course, for the different cults and denominations; but in the
priestly life of all anthropomorphic cults the marks of a
vicarious consumption of time are visible.

The same pervading canon of vicarious leisure is also visibly
present in the exterior details of devout observances and need
only be pointed out in order to become obvious to all beholders.
All ritual has a notable tendency to reduce itself to a rehearsal
of formulas. This development of formula is most noticeable in
the maturer cults, which have at the same time a more austere,
ornate, and severe priestly life and garb; but it is perceptible
also in the forms and methods of worship of the newer and fresher
sects, whose tastes in respect of priests, vestments, and
sanctuaries are less exacting. The rehearsal of the service (the
term "service" carries a suggestion significant for the point in
question) grows more perfunctory as the cult gains in age and
consistency, and this perfunctoriness of the rehearsal is very
pleasing to the correct devout taste. And with a good reason, for
the fact of its being perfunctory goes to say pointedly that the
master for whom it is performed is exalted above the vulgar need
of actually proficuous service on the part of his servants. They
are unprofitable servants, and there is an honorific implication
for their master in their remaining
unprofitable. It is needless to point out the close analogy at
this point between the priestly office and the office of the
footman. It is pleasing to our sense of what is fitting in these
matters, in either case, to recognize in the obvious
perfunctoriness of the service that it is a pro forma execution
only. There should be no show of agility or of dexterous
manipulation in the execution of the priestly office, such as
might suggest a capacity for turning off the work.

In all this there is of course an obvious implication as to the
temperament, tastes, propensities, and habits of life imputed to
the divinity by worshippers who live under the tradition of these
pecuniary canons of reputability. Through its pervading men's
habits of thought, the principle of conspicuous waste has colored
the worshippers' notions of the divinity and of the relation in
which the human subject stands to him. It is of course in the
more naive cults that this suffusion of pecuniary beauty is most
patent, but it is visible throughout. All peoples, at whatever
stage of culture or degree of enlightenment, are fain to eke out
a sensibly scant degree of authentic formation
regarding the personality and habitual surroundings of their
divinities. In so calling in the aid of fancy to enrich and fill
in their picture of the divinity's presence and manner of life
they habitually impute to him such traits as go to make up their
ideal of a worthy man. And in seeking communion with the divinity
the ways and means of approach are assimilated as nearly as may
be to the divine ideal that is in men's minds at the time. It is
felt that the divine presence is entered with the best grace, and
with the best effect, according to certain accepted methods and
with the accompaniment of certain material circumstances which in
popular apprehension are peculiarly consonant with the divine
nature. This popularly accepted ideal of the bearing and
paraphernalia adequate to such occasions of communion is, of
course, to a good extent shaped by the popular apprehension of
what is intrinsically worthy and beautiful in human carriage and
surroundings on all occasions of dignified intercourse. It would
on this account be misleading to attempt an analysis of devout
demeanor by referring all evidences of the presence of a
pecuniary standard of reputability back directly and baldly to
the underlying norm of pecuniary emulation. So it would also be
misleading to ascribe to the divinity, as popularly conceived, a
jealous regard for his pecuniary standing and a habit of avoiding
and condemning squalid situations and surroundings simply because
they are under grade in the pecuniary respect.

And still, after all allowance has been made, it appears that the
canons of pecuniary reputability do, directly or
indirectly, materially affect our notions of the attributes of
divinity, as well as our notions of what are the fit and adequate
manner and circumstances of divine communion. It is felt that the
divinity must be of a peculiarly serene and leisurely habit of
life. And whenever his local habitation is pictured in poetic
imagery, for edification or in appeal to the devout fancy, the
devout word-painter, as a matter of course, brings out before his
auditors' imagination a throne with a profusion of the insignia
of opulence and power, and surrounded by a great number of
servitors. In the common run of such presentations of the
celestial abodes, the office of this corps of servants is a
vicarious leisure, their time and efforts being in great measure
taken up with an industrially unproductive rehearsal of the
meritorious characteristics and exploits of the divinity; while
the background of the presentation is filled with the shimmer of
the precious metals and of the more expensive varieties of
precious stones. It is only in the crasser expressions of devout
fancy that this intrusion of pecuniary canons into the devout
ideals reaches such an extreme. An extreme case occurs in the
devout imagery of the Negro population of the South. Their
word-painters are unable to descend to anything cheaper than
gold; so that in this case the insistence on pecuniary beauty
gives a startling effect in yellow -- such as would be unbearable
to a soberer taste. Still, there is probably no cult in which
ideals of pecuniary merit have not been called in to supplement
the ideals of ceremonial adequacy that guide men's conception of
what is right in the matter of sacred apparatus.

Similarly it is felt -- and the sentiment is acted upon -- that
the priestly servitors of the divinity should not engage in
industrially productive work; that work of any kind -- any
employment which is of tangible human use -- must not be carried
on in the divine presence, or within the precincts of the
sanctuary; that whoever comes into the presence should come
cleansed of all profane industrial features in his apparel or
person, and should come clad in garments of more than everyday
expensiveness; that on holidays set apart in honor of or for
communion with the divinity no work that is of human use should
be performed by any one. Even the remoter, lay dependents should
render a vicarious leisure to the extent of one day in seven.
In all these deliverances of men's uninstructed sense of what is
fit and proper in devout observance and in the relations of the
divinity, the effectual presence of the canons of
pecuniary reputability is obvious enough, whether these canons
have had their effect on the devout judgment in this respect
immediately or at the second remove.

These canons of reputability have had a similar, but more
far-reaching and more specifically determinable, effect upon the
popular sense of beauty or serviceability in consumable goods.
The requirements of pecuniary decency have, to a very appreciable
extent, influenced the sense of beauty and of utility in articles
of use or beauty. Articles are to an extent preferred for use on
account of their being conspicuously wasteful; they are felt to
be serviceable somewhat in proportion as they are wasteful and
ill adapted to their ostensible use.

The utility of articles valued for their beauty depends closely
upon the expensiveness of the articles. A homely
illustration will bring out this dependence. A hand-wrought
silver spoon, of a commercial value of some ten to twenty
dollars, is not ordinarily more serviceable -- in the first sense
of the word -- than a machine-made spoon of the same material. It
may not even be more serviceable than a machine-made spoon of
some "base" metal, such as aluminum, the value of which may be no
more than some ten to twenty cents. The former of the two
utensils is, in fact, commonly a less effective contrivance for
its ostensible purpose than the latter. The objection is of
course ready to hand that, in taking this view of the matter, one
of the chief uses, if not the chief use, of the costlier spoon is
ignored; the hand-wrought spoon gratifies our taste, our sense of
the beautiful, while that made by machinery out of the base metal
has no useful office beyond a brute efficiency. The facts are no
doubt as the objection states them, but it will be evident on
rejection that the objection is after all more plausible than
conclusive. It appears (1) that while the different materials of
which the two spoons are made each possesses beauty and
serviceability for the purpose for which it is used, the material
of the hand-wrought spoon is some one hundred times more valuable
than the baser metal, without very greatly excelling the latter
in intrinsic beauty of grain or color, and without being in any
appreciable degree superior in point of mechanical
serviceability; (2) if a close inspection should show that the
supposed hand-wrought spoon were in reality only a very clever
citation of hand-wrought goods, but an imitation so cleverly
wrought as to give the same impression of line and surface to any
but a minute examination by a trained eye, the utility of the
article, including the gratification which the user derives from
its contemplation as an object of beauty, would immediately
decline by some eighty or ninety per cent, or even more; (3) if
the two spoons are, to a fairly close observer, so nearly
identical in appearance that the lighter weight of the spurious
article alone betrays it, this identity of form and color will
scarcely add to the value of the machine-made spoon, nor
appreciably enhance the gratification of the user's "sense of
beauty" in contemplating it, so long as the cheaper spoon is not
a novelty, ad so long as it can be procured at a nominal cost.
The case of the spoons is typical. The superior
gratification derived from the use and contemplation of costly
and supposedly beautiful products is, commonly, in great measure
a gratification of our sense of costliness masquerading under the
name of beauty. Our higher appreciation of the superior article
is an appreciation of its superior honorific character, much more
frequently than it is an unsophisticated appreciation of its
beauty. The requirement of conspicuous wastefulness is not
commonly present, consciously, in our canons of taste, but it is
none the less present as a constraining norm selectively shaping
and sustaining our sense of what is beautiful, and guiding our
discrimination with respect to what may legitimately be approved
as beautiful and what may not.

It is at this point, where the beautiful and the honorific meet
and blend, that a discrimination between serviceability and
wastefulness is most difficult in any concrete case. It
frequently happens that an article which serves the honorific
purpose of conspicuous waste is at the same time a beautiful
object; and the same application of labor to which it owes its
utility for the former purpose may, and often does, give beauty
of form and color to the article. The question is further
complicated by the fact that many objects, as, for instance, the
precious stones and the metals and some other materials used for
adornment and decoration, owe their utility as items of
conspicuous waste to an antecedent utility as objects of beauty.
Gold, for instance, has a high degree of sensuous beauty very
many if not most of the highly prized works of art are
intrinsically beautiful, though often with material
qualification; the like is true of some stuffs used for clothing,
of some landscapes, and of many other things in less degree.
Except for this intrinsic beauty which they possess, these
objects would scarcely have been coveted as they are, or have
become monopolized objects of pride to their possessors and
users. But the utility of these things to the possessor is
commonly due less to their intrinsic beauty than to the honor
which their possession and consumption confers, or to the obloquy
which it wards off.

Apart from their serviceability in other respects, these objects
are beautiful and have a utility as such; they are valuable on
this account if they can be appropriated or
monopolized; they are, therefore, coveted as valuable
possessions, and their exclusive enjoyment gratifies the
possessor's sense of pecuniary superiority at the same time that
their contemplation gratifies his sense of beauty. But their
beauty, in the naive sense of the word, is the occasion rather
than the ground of their monopolization or of their commercial
value. "Great as is the sensuous beauty of gems, their rarity and
price adds an expression of distinction to them, which they would
never have if they were cheap." There is, indeed, in the common
run of cases under this head, relatively little incentive to the
exclusive possession and use of these beautiful things, except on
the ground of their honorific character as items of conspicuous
waste. Most objects of this general class, with the partial
exception of articles of personal adornment, would serve all
other purposes than the honorific one equally well, whether owned
by the person viewing them or not; and even as regards personal
ornaments it is to be added that their chief purpose is to lend
éclat to the person of their wearer (or owner) by comparison
with other persons who are compelled to do without. The aesthetic
serviceability of objects of beauty is not greatly nor
universally heightened by possession.

The generalization for which the discussion so far affords ground
is that any valuable object in order to appeal to our sense of
beauty must conform to the requirements of beauty and of
expensiveness both. But this is not all. Beyond this the canon of
expensiveness also affects our tastes in such a way as to
inextricably blend the marks of expensiveness, in our
appreciation, with the beautiful features of the object, and to
subsume the resultant effect under the head of an appreciation of
beauty simply. The marks of expensiveness come to be accepted as
beautiful features of the expensive articles. They are pleasing
as being marks of honorific costliness, and the pleasure which
they afford on this score blends with that afforded by the
beautiful form and color of the object; so that we often declare
that an article of apparel, for instance, is "perfectly lovely,"
when pretty much all that an analysis of the aesthetic value of
the article would leave ground for is the declaration that it is
pecuniarily honorific.

This blending and confusion of the elements of expensiveness and
of beauty is, perhaps, best exemplified in articles of dress and
of household furniture. The code of reputability in matters of
dress decides what shapes, colors, materials, and general effects
in human apparel are for the time to be accepted as suitable; and
departures from the code are offensive to our taste, supposedly
as being departures from aesthetic truth. The approval with which
we look upon fashionable attire is by no means to be accounted
pure make-believe. We readily, and for the most part with utter
sincerity, find those things pleasing that are in vogue. Shaggy
dress-stuffs and pronounced color effects, for instance, offend
us at times when the vogue is goods of a high, glossy finish and
neutral colors. A fancy bonnet of this year's model
unquestionably appeals to our sensibilities today much more
forcibly than an equally fancy bonnet of the model of last year;
although when viewed in the perspective of a quarter of a
century, it would, I apprehend, be a matter of the utmost
difficulty to award the palm for intrinsic beauty to the one
rather than to the other of these structures. So, again, it may
be remarked that, considered simply in their physical
juxtaposition with the human form, the high gloss of a
gentleman's hat or of a patent-leather shoe has no more of
intrinsic beauty than a similarly high gloss on a threadbare
sleeve; and yet there is no question but that all well-bred
people (in the Occidental civilized communities) instinctively
and unaffectedly cleave to the one as a phenomenon of great
beauty, and eschew the other as offensive to every sense to which
it can appeal. It is extremely doubtful if any one could be
induced to wear such a contrivance as the high hat of civilized
society, except for some urgent reason based on other than
aesthetic grounds.

By further habituation to an appreciative perception of the marks
of expensiveness in goods, and by habitually identifying beauty
with reputability, it comes about that a beautiful article which
is not expensive is accounted not beautiful. In this way it has
happened, for instance, that some beautiful flowers pass
conventionally for offensive weeds; others that can be cultivated
with relative ease are accepted and admired by the lower middle
class, who can afford no more expensive luxuries of this kind;
but these varieties are rejected as vulgar by those people who
are better able to pay for expensive flowers and who are educated
to a higher schedule of pecuniary beauty in the florist's
products; while still other flowers, of no greater intrinsic
beauty than these, are cultivated at great cost and call out much
admiration from flower-lovers whose tastes have been matured
under the critical guidance of a polite environment.

The same variation in matters of taste, from one class of society
to another, is visible also as regards many other kinds of
consumable goods, as, for example, is the case with furniture,
houses, parks, and gardens. This diversity of views as to what is
beautiful in these various classes of goods is not a diversity of
the norm according to which the unsophisticated sense of the
beautiful works. It is not a constitutional difference of
endowments in the aesthetic respect, but rather a difference in
the code of reputability which specifies what objects properly
lie within the scope of honorific consumption for the class to
which the critic belongs. It is a difference in the traditions of
propriety with respect to the kinds of things which may, without
derogation to the consumer, be consumed under the head of objects
of taste and art. With a certain allowance for variations to be
accounted for on other grounds, these traditions are determined,
more or less rigidly, by the pecuniary plane of life of the

Everyday life affords many curious illustrations of the way in
which the code of pecuniary beauty in articles of use varies from
class to class, as well as of the way in which the
conventional sense of beauty departs in its deliverances from the
sense untutored by the requirements of pecuniary repute. Such a
fact is the lawn, or the close-cropped yard or park, which
appeals so unaffectedly to the taste of the Western peoples. It
appears especially to appeal to the tastes of the well-to-do
classes in those communities in which the dolicho-blond element
predominates in an appreciable degree. The lawn unquestionably
has an element of sensuous beauty, simply as an object of
apperception, and as such no doubt it appeals pretty directly to
the eye of nearly all races and all classes; but it is, perhaps,
more unquestionably beautiful to the eye of the dolicho-blond
than to most other varieties of men. This higher appreciation of
a stretch of greensward in this ethnic element than in the other
elements of the population, goes along with certain other
features of the dolicho-blond temperament that indicate that this
racial element had once been for a long time a pastoral people
inhabiting a region with a humid climate. The close-cropped lawn
is beautiful in the eyes of a people whose inherited bent it is
to readily find pleasure in contemplating a well-preserved
pasture or grazing land.

For the aesthetic purpose the lawn is a cow pasture; and in some
cases today -- where the expensiveness of the attendant
circumstances bars out any imputation of thrift -- the idyl of
the dolicho-blond is rehabilitated in the introduction of a cow
into a lawn or private ground. In such cases the cow made use of
is commonly of an expensive breed. The vulgar suggestion of
thrift, which is nearly inseparable from the cow, is a standing
objection to the decorative use of this animal. So that in all
cases, except where luxurious surroundings negate this
suggestion, the use of the cow as an object of taste must be
avoided. Where the predilection for some grazing animal to fill
out the suggestion of the pasture is too strong to be suppressed,
the cow's place is often given to some more or less inadequate
substitute, such as deer, antelopes, or some such exotic beast.
These substitutes, although less beautiful to the pastoral eye of
Western man than the cow, are in such cases preferred because of
their superior expensiveness or futility, and their consequent
repute. They are not vulgarly lucrative either in fact or in

Public parks of course fall in the same category with the lawn;
they too, at their best, are imitations of the pasture. Such a
park is of course best kept by grazing, and the cattle on the
grass are themselves no mean addition to the beauty of the thing,
as need scarcely be insisted on with anyone who has once seen a
well-kept pasture. But it is worth noting, as an
expression of the pecuniary element in popular taste, that such a
method of keeping public grounds is seldom resorted to. The best
that is done by skilled workmen under the supervision of a
trained keeper is a more or less close imitation of a pasture,
but the result invariably falls somewhat short of the artistic
effect of grazing. But to the average popular apprehension a herd
of cattle so pointedly suggests thrift and usefulness that their
presence in the public pleasure ground would be intolerably
cheap. This method of keeping grounds is comparatively
inexpensive, therefore it is indecorous.

Of the same general bearing is another feature of public grounds.
There is a studious exhibition of expensiveness coupled with a
make-believe of simplicity and crude serviceability. Private
grounds also show the same physiognomy wherever they are in the
management or ownership of persons whose tastes have been formed
under middle-class habits of life or under the upper-class
traditions of no later a date than the childhood of the
generation that is now passing. Grounds which conform to the
instructed tastes of the latter-day upper class do not show these
features in so marked a degree. The reason for this difference in
tastes between the past and the incoming generation of the
well-bred lies in the changing economic situation. A similar
difference is perceptible in other respects, as well as in the
accepted ideals of pleasure grounds. In this country as in most
others, until the last half century but a very small proportion
of the population were possessed of such wealth as would exempt
them from thrift. Owing to imperfect means of communication, this
small fraction were scattered and out of effective touch with one
another. There was therefore no basis for a growth of taste in
disregard of expensiveness. The revolt of the well-bred taste
against vulgar thrift was unchecked. Wherever the unsophisticated
sense of beauty might show itself sporadically in an approval of
inexpensive or thrifty surroundings, it would lack the "social
confirmation" which nothing but a considerable body of
like-minded people can give. There was, therefore, no effective
upper-class opinion that would overlook evidences of possible
inexpensiveness in the management of grounds; and there was
consequently no appreciable divergence between the leisure-class
and the lower middle-class ideal in the physiognomy of pleasure
grounds. Both classes equally constructed their ideals with the
fear of pecuniary disrepute before their eyes.

Today a divergence in ideals is beginning to be apparent. The
portion of the leisure class that has been consistently exempt
from work and from pecuniary cares for a generation or more is
now large enough to form and sustain opinion in matters of taste.
Increased mobility of the members has also added to the facility
with which a "social confirmation" can be attained within the
class. Within this select class the exemption from thrift is a
matter so commonplace as to have lost much of its utility as a
basis of pecuniary decency. Therefore the latter-day upper-class
canons of taste do not so consistently insist on an unremitting
demonstration of expensiveness and a strict exclusion of the
appearance of thrift. So, a predilection for the rustic and the
"natural" in parks and grounds makes its appearance on these
higher social and intellectual levels. This predilection is in
large part an outcropping of the instinct of workmanship; and it
works out its results with varying degrees of consistency. It is
seldom altogether unaffected, and at times it shades off into
something not widely different from that make-believe of
rusticity which has been referred to above.

A weakness for crudely serviceable contrivances that
pointedly suggest immediate and wasteless use is present even in
the middle-class tastes; but it is there kept well in hand under
the unbroken dominance of the canon of reputable futility.
Consequently it works out in a variety of ways and means for
shamming serviceability -- in such contrivances as rustic fences,
bridges, bowers, pavilions, and the like decorative features. An
expression of this affectation of serviceability, at what is
perhaps its widest divergence from the first promptings of the
sense of economic beauty, is afforded by the cast-iron rustic
fence and trellis or by a circuitous drive laid across level

The select leisure class has outgrown the use of these
pseudo-serviceable variants of pecuniary beauty, at least at some
points. But the taste of the more recent accessions to the
leisure class proper and of the middle and lower classes still
requires a pecuniary beauty to supplement the aesthetic beauty,
even in those objects which are primarily admired for the beauty
that belongs to them as natural growths.

The popular taste in these matters is to be seen in the prevalent
high appreciation of topiary work and of the
conventional flower-beds of public grounds. Perhaps as happy an
illustration as may be had of this dominance of pecuniary beauty
over aesthetic beauty in middle-class tastes is seen in the
reconstruction of the grounds lately occupied by the Columbian
Exposition. The evidence goes to show that the requirement of
reputable expensiveness is still present in good vigor even where
all ostensibly lavish display is avoided. The artistic effects
actually wrought in this work of reconstruction diverge somewhat
widely from the effect to which the same ground would have lent
itself in hands not guided by pecuniary canons of taste. And even
the better class of the city's population view the progress of
the work with an unreserved approval which suggests that there is
in this case little if any discrepancy between the tastes of the
upper and the lower or middle classes of the city. The sense of
beauty in the population of this representative city of the
advanced pecuniary culture is very chary of any departure from
its great cultural principle of conspicuous waste.

The love of nature, perhaps itself borrowed from a
higher-class code of taste, sometimes expresses itself in
unexpected ways under the guidance of this canon of pecuniary
beauty, and leads to results that may seem incongruous to an
unreflecting beholder. The well-accepted practice of planting
trees in the treeless areas of this country, for instance, has
been carried over as an item of honorific expenditure into the
heavily wooded areas; so that it is by no means unusual for a
village or a farmer in the wooded country to clear the land of
its native trees and immediately replant saplings of certain
introduced varieties about the farmyard or along the streets. In
this way a forest growth of oak, elm, beech, butternut, hemlock,
basswood, and birch is cleared off to give room for saplings of
soft maple, cottonwood, and brittle willow. It is felt that the
inexpensiveness of leaving the forest trees standing would
derogate from the dignity that should invest an article which is
intended to serve a decorative and honorific end.

The like pervading guidance of taste by pecuniary repute is
traceable in the prevalent standards of beauty in animals. The
part played by this canon of taste in assigning her place in the
popular aesthetic scale to the cow has already been spokes of.
Something to the same effect is true of the other domestic
animals, so far as they are in an appreciable degree industrially
useful to the community -- as, for instance, barnyard fowl, hogs,
cattle, sheep, goats, draught-horses. They are of the nature of
productive goods, and serve a useful, often a lucrative end;
therefore beauty is not readily imputed to them. The case is
different with those domestic animals which ordinarily serve no
industrial end; such as pigeons, parrots and other cage-birds,
cats, dogs, and fast horses. These commonly are items of
conspicuous consumption, and are therefore honorific in their
nature and may legitimately be accounted beautiful. This class of
animals are conventionally admired by the body of the upper
classes, while the pecuniarily lower classes -- and that select
minority of the leisure class among whom the rigorous canon that
abjures thrift is in a measure obsolescent -- find beauty in one
class of animals as in another, without drawing a hard and fast
line of pecuniary demarcation between the beautiful and the ugly.
In the case of those domestic animals which are honorific and are
reputed beautiful, there is a subsidiary basis of merit that
should be spokes of. Apart from the birds which belong in the
honorific class of domestic animals, and which owe their place in
this class to their non-lucrative character alone, the animals
which merit particular attention are cats, dogs, and fast horses.
The cat is less reputable than the other two just named, because
she is less wasteful; she may eves serve a useful end. At the
same time the cat's temperament does not fit her for the
honorific purpose. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows
nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of
all distinctions of worth, honor, and repute, and she does not
lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her
owner and his neighbors. The exception to this last rule occurs
in the case of such scarce and fanciful products as the Angora
cat, which have some slight honorific value on the ground of
expensiveness, and have, therefore, some special claim to beauty
on pecuniary grounds.

The dog has advantages in the way of uselessness as well as in
special gifts of temperament. He is often spoken of, in an
eminent sense, as the friend of man, and his intelligence and
fidelity are praised. The meaning of this is that the dog is
man's servant and that he has the gift of an unquestioning
subservience and a slave's quickness in guessing his master's
mood. Coupled with these traits, which fit him well for the
relation of status -- and which must for the present purpose be
set down as serviceable traits -- the dog has some
characteristics which are of a more equivocal aesthetic value. He
is the filthiest of the domestic animals in his person and the
nastiest in his habits. For this he makes up is 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 favor 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 imagination with the chase -- a
meritorious employment and an expression of the honorable
predatory impulse. Standing on this vantage ground, whatever
beauty of form and motion and whatever commendable mental traits
he may possess are conventionally acknowledged and magnified. And
even those varieties of the dog which have been bred into
grotesque deformity by the dog-fancier are in good faith
accounted beautiful by many. These varieties of dogs -- and the
like is true of other fancy-bred animals -- are rated and graded
in aesthetic value somewhat in proportion to the degree of
grotesqueness and instability of the particular fashion which the
deformity takes in the given case. For the purpose in hand, this
differential utility on the ground of grotesqueness and
instability of structure is reducible to terms of a greater
scarcity and consequent expense. The commercial value of canine
monstrosities, such as the prevailing styles of pet dogs both for
men's and women's use, rests on their high cost of production,
and their value to their owners lies chiefly in their utility as
items of conspicuous consumption. In directly, through reflection
Upon their honorific expensiveness, a social worth is imputed to
them; and so, by an easy substitution of words and ideas, they
come to be admired and reputed beautiful. Since any attention
bestowed upon these animals is in no sense gainful or useful, it
is also reputable; and since the habit of giving them attention
is consequently not deprecated, it may grow into an habitual
attachment of great tenacity and of a most benevolent character.
So that in the affection bestowed on pet animals the canon of
expensiveness is present more or less remotely as a norm which
guides and shapes the sentiment and the selection of its object.
The like is true, as will be noticed presently, with respect to
affection for persons also; although the manner in which the norm
acts in that case is somewhat different.

The case of the fast horse is much like that of the dog. He is on
the whole expensive, or wasteful and useless -- for the
industrial purpose. What productive use he may possess, in the
way of enhancing the well-being of the community or making the
way of life easier for men, takes the form of exhibitions of
force and facility of motion that gratify the popular aesthetic
sense. This is of course a substantial serviceability. The horse
is not endowed with the spiritual aptitude for servile dependence
in the same measure as the dog; but he ministers effectually to
his master's impulse to convert the "animate" forces of the
environment to his own use and discretion and so express his own
dominating individuality through them. The fast horse is at least
potentially a race-horse, of high or low degree; and it is as
such that he is peculiarly serviceable to his owner. The utility
of the fast horse lies largely in his efficiency as a means of
emulation; it gratifies the owner's sense of aggression and
dominance to have his own horse outstrip his neighbor's. This use
being not lucrative, but on the whole pretty consistently
wasteful, and quite conspicuously so, it is honorific, and
therefore gives the fast horse a strong presumptive position of
reputability. Beyond this, the race-horse proper has also a
similarly non-industrial but honorific use as a gambling

The fast horse, then, is aesthetically fortunate, in that the
canon of pecuniary good repute legitimates a free
appreciation of whatever beauty or serviceability he may possess.
His pretensions have the countenance of the principle of
conspicuous waste and the backing of the predatory aptitude for
dominance and emulation. The horse is, moreover, a beautiful
animal, although the race-horse is so in no peculiar degree to
the uninstructed taste of those persons who belong neither in the
class of race-horse fanciers nor in the class whose sense of
beauty is held in abeyance by the moral constraint of the horse
fancier's award. To this untutored taste the most beautiful horse
seems to be a form which has suffered less radical alteration
than the race-horse under the breeder's selective development of
the animal. Still, when a writer or speaker -- especially of
those whose eloquence is most consistently commonplace wants an
illustration of animal grace and serviceability, for rhetorical
use, he habitually turns to the horse; and he commonly makes it
plain before he is done that what he has in mind is the

It should be noted that in the graduated appreciation of
varieties of horses and of dogs, such as one meets with among
people of even moderately cultivated tastes in these matters,
there is also discernible another and more direct line of
influence of the leisure-class canons of reputability. In this
country, for instance, leisure-class tastes are to some extent
shaped on usages and habits which prevail, or which are
apprehended to prevail, among the leisure class of Great Britain.
In dogs this is true to a less extent than in horses. In horses,
more particularly in saddle horses -- which at their best serve
the purpose of wasteful display simply -- it will hold true in a
general way that a horse is more beautiful in proportion as he is
more English; the English leisure class being, for purposes of
reputable usage, the upper leisure class of this country, and so
the exemplar for the lower grades. This mimicry in the methods of
the apperception of beauty and in the forming of judgments of
taste need not result in a spurious, or at any rate not a
hypocritical or affected, predilection. The predilection is as
serious and as substantial an award of taste when it rests on
this basis as when it rests on any other, the difference is that
this taste is and as substantial an award of taste when it rests
on this basis as when it rests on any other; the difference is
that this taste is a taste for the reputably correct, not for the
aesthetically true.

The mimicry, it should be said, extends further than to the sense
of beauty in horseflesh simply. It includes trappings and
horsemanship as well, so that the correct or reputably beautiful
seat or posture is also decided by English usage, as well as the
equestrian gait. To show how fortuitous may sometimes be the
circumstances which decide what shall be becoming and what not
under the pecuniary canon of beauty, it may be noted that this
English seat, and the peculiarly distressing gait which has made
an awkward seat necessary, are a survival from the time when the
English roads were so bad with mire and mud as to be virtually
impassable for a horse travelling at a more comfortable gait; so
that a person of decorous tastes in horsemanship today rides a
punch with docked tail, in an uncomfortable posture and at a
distressing gait, because the English roads during a great part
of the last century were impassable for a horse travelling at a
more horse-like gait, or for an animal built for moving with ease
over the firm and open country to which the horse is indigenous.
It is not only with respect to consumable goods -- including
domestic animals -- that the canons of taste have been colored by
the canons of pecuniary reputability. Something to the like
effect is to be said for beauty in persons. In order to avoid
whatever may be matter of controversy, no weight will be given in
this connection to such popular predilection as there may be for
the dignified (leisurely) bearing and poly presence that are by
vulgar tradition associated with opulence in mature men. These
traits are in some measure accepted as elements of personal
beauty. But there are certain elements of feminine beauty, on the


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