July 21, 2003

Veblen

I've been quite busy of late, so reading for pleasure is something I haven't had much time for. On the train to work, I've been distracting myself with the collection of Borges essays Selected Non-Fictions, edited by Eliot Weinberger and translated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine and Mr. Weinberger.

Late in the book, there's a short piece of Thorstein Veblen, author of The Theory of the Leisure Class, about which Borges writes

When, many years ago, I happened to read this book, I thought it was a satire. I later learned that it was the first work of an illustrious sociologist. In any event, one need only look closely at a society to realize that it it is not a utopia, and that its description runs the risk of bordering on satire. In this book from 1899, Veblen discovers and defines the leisure class, whose strange obligation is the ostentatious spending of money. Thus they live in a certain neighborhood because that neighborhood is famous for being the most expensive. ... According to Veblen, the success of golf is due to the circumstance that it requires a great deal of land. He mistakenly claims that the study of Latin and Greek has its origin in the fact that both languages are useless. ...

I thought the first line was perfect.

Posted by Ideofact at July 21, 2003 09:49 PM
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