The Theory of the Leisure Class
by Thorstein Veblen

Chapter Twelve
Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14


Devout Observances
     A discoursive rehearsal of certain incidents of modern life
will show the organic relation of the anthropomorphic cults to
the barbarian culture and temperament. It will likewise serve to
show how the survival and efficacy of the cults and he prevalence
of their schedule of devout observances are related to the
institution of a leisure class and to the springs of action
underlying that institution. Without any intention to commend or
to deprecate the practices to be spoken of under the head of
devout observances, or the spiritual and intellectual traits of
which these observances are the expression, the everyday
phenomena of current anthropomorphic cults may be taken up from
the point of view of the interest which they have for economic
theory. What can properly be spoken of here are the tangible,
external features of devout observances. The moral, as well as
the devotional value of the life of faith lies outside of the
scope of the present inquiry. Of course no question is here
entertained as to the truth or beauty of the creeds on which the
cults proceed. And even their remoter economic bearing can not be
taken up here; the subject is too recondite and of too grave
import to find a place in so slight a sketch.
     Something has been said in an earlier chapter as to the
influence which pecuniary standards of value exert upon the
processes of valuation carried out on other bases, not related to
the pecuniary interest. The relation is not altogether one-sided.
The economic standards or canons of valuation are in their turn
influenced by extra-economic standards of value. Our judgments of
the economic bearing of facts are to some extent shaped by the
dominant presence of these weightier interests. There is a point
of view, indeed, from which the economic interest is of weight
only as being ancillary to these higher, non-economic interests.
For the present purpose, therefore, some thought must he taken to
isolate the economic interest or the economic hearing of these
phenomena of anthropomorphic cults. It takes some effort to
divest oneself of the more serious point of view, and to reach an
economic appreciation of these facts, with as little as may be of
the bias due to higher interests extraneous to economic theory.
    In the discussion of the sporting temperament, it has
appeared that the sense of an animistic propensity in material
things and events is what affords the spiritual basis of the
sporting man's gambling habit. For the economic purpose, this
sense of propensity is substantially the same psychological
element as expresses itself, under a variety of forms, in
animistic beliefs and anthropomorphic creeds. So far as concerns
those tangible psychological features with which economic theory
has to deal, the gambling spirit which pervades the sporting
element shades off by insensible gradations into that frame of
mind which finds gratification in devout observances. As seen
from the point of view of economic theory, the sporting character
shades off into the character of a religious devotee. Where the
betting man's animistic sense is helped out by a somewhat
consistent tradition, it has developed into a more or less
articulate belief in a preternatural or hyperphysical agency,
with something of an anthropomorphic content. And where this is
the case, there is commonly a perceptible inclination to make
terms with the preternatural agency by some approved method of
approach and conciliation. This element of propitiation and
cajoling has much in common with the crasser forms of worship --
if not in historical derivation, at least in actual psychological
content. It obviously shades off in unbroken continuity into what
is recognized as superstitious practice and belief, and so
asserts its claim to kinship with the grosser anthropomorphic
     The sporting or gambling temperament, then, comprises some
of the substantial psychological elements that go to make a
believer in creeds and an observer of devout forms, the chief
point of coincidence being the belief in an inscrutable
propensity or a preternatural interposition in the sequence of
events. For the purpose of the gambling practice the belief in
preternatural agency may be, and ordinarily is, less closely
formulated, especially as regards the habits of thought and the
scheme of life imputed to the preternatural agent; or, in other
words, as regards his moral character and his purposes in
interfering in events. With respect to the individuality or
personality of the agency whose presence as luck, or chance, or
hoodoo, or mascot, etc., he feels and sometimes dreads and
endeavors to evade, the sporting man's views are also less
specific, less integrated and differentiated. The basis of his
gambling activity is, in great measure, simply an instinctive
sense of the presence of a pervasive extraphysical and arbitrary
force or propensity in things or situations, which is scarcely
recognized as a personal agent. The betting man is not
infrequently both a believer in luck, in this naive sense, and at
the same time a pretty staunch adherent of some form of accepted
creed. He is especially prone to accept so much of the creed as
concerts the inscrutable power and the arbitrary habits of the
divinity which has won his confidence. In such a case he is
possessed of two, or sometimes more than two, distinguishable
phases of animism. Indeed, the complete series of successive
phases of animistic belief is to be found unbroken in the
spiritual furniture of any sporting community. Such a chain of
animistic conceptions will comprise the most elementary form of
an instinctive sense of luck and chance and fortuitous necessity
at one end of the series, together with the perfectly developed
anthropomorphic divinity at the other end, with all intervening
stages of integration. Coupled with these beliefs in
preternatural agency goes an instinctive shaping of conduct to
conform with the surmised requirements of the lucky chance on the
one hand, and a more or less devout submission to the inscrutable
decrees of the divinity on the other hand.
     There is a relationship in this respect between the sporting
temperament and the temperament of the delinquent classes; and
the two are related to the temperament which inclines to an
anthropomorphic cult. Both the delinquent and the sporting man
are on the average more apt to be adherents of some accredited
creed, and are also rather more inclined to devout observances,
than the general average of the community. it is also noticeable
that unbelieving members of these classes show more of a
proclivity to become proselytes to some accredited faith than the
average of unbelievers. This fact of observation is avowed by the
spokesmen of sports, especially in apologizing for the more
naively predatory athletic sports. Indeed, it is somewhat
insistently claimed as a meritorious feature of sporting life
that the habitual participants in athletic games are in some
degree peculiarly given to devout practices. And it is observable
that the cult to which sporting men and the predaceous delinquent
classes adhere, or to which proselytes from these classes
commonly attach themselves, is ordinarily not one of the
so-called higher faiths, but a cult which has to do with a
thoroughly anthropomorphic divinity. Archaic, predatory human
nature is not satisfied with abstruse conceptions of a dissolving
personality that shades off into the concept of quantitative
causal sequence, such as the speculative, esoteric creeds of
Christendom impute to the First Cause, Universal Intelligence,
World Soul, or Spiritual Aspect. As an instance of a cult of the
character which the habits of mind of the athlete and the
delinquent require, may be cited that branch of the church
militant known as the Salvation Army. This is to some extent
recruited from the lower-class delinquents, and it appears to
comprise also, among its officers especially, a larger proportion
of men with a sporting record than the proportion of such men in
the aggregate population of the community.
     College athletics afford a case in point. It is contended by
exponents of the devout element in college life -- and there
seems to be no ground for disputing the claim -- that the
desirable athletic material afforded by any student body in this
country is at the same time predominantly religious; or that it
is at least given to devout observances to a greater degree than
the average of those students whose interest in athletics and
other college sports is less. This is what might be expected on
theoretical grounds. It may be remarked, by the way, that from
one point of view this is felt to reflect credit on the college
sporting life, on athletic games, and on those persons who occupy
themselves with these matters. It happens not frequently that
college sporting men devote themselves to religious propaganda,
either as a vocation or as a by-occupation; and it is observable
that when this happens they are likely to become propagandists of
some one of the more anthropomorphic cults. In their teaching
they are apt to insist chiefly on the personal relation of status
which subsists between an anthropomorphic divinity and the human
     This intimate relation between athletics and devout
observance among college men is a fact of sufficient notoriety;
but it has a special feature to which attention has not been
called, although it is obvious enough. The religious zeal which
pervades much of the college sporting element is especially prone
to express itself in an unquestioning devoutness and a naive and
complacent submission to an inscrutable Providence. It therefore
by preference seeks affliation with some one of those lay
religious organizations which occupy themselves with the spread
of the exoteric forms of faith -- as, e.g., the Young Men's
Christian Association or the Young People's Society for Christian
Endeavor. These lay bodies are organized to further "practical"
religion; and as if to enforce the argument and firmly establish
the close relationship between the sporting temperament and the
archaic devoutness, these lay religious bodies commonly devote
some appreciable portion of their energies to the furtherance of
athletic contests and similar games of chance and skill. It might
even be said that sports of this kind are apprehended to have
some efficacy as a means of grace. They are apparently useful as
a means of proselyting, and as a means of sustaining the devout
attitude in converts once made. That is to say, the games which
give exercise to the animistic sense and to the emulative
propensity help to form and to conserve that habit of mind to
which the more exoteric cults are congenial. Hence, in the hands
of the lay organizations, these sporting activities come to do
duty as a novitiate or a means of induction into that fuller
unfolding of the life of spiritual status which is the privilege
of the full communicant along.
     That the exercise of the emulative and lower animistic
proclivities are substantially useful for the devout purpose
seems to be placed beyond question by the fact that the
priesthood of many denominations is following the lead of the lay
organizations in this respect. Those ecclesiastical organizations
especially which stand nearest the lay organizations in their
insistence on practical religion have gone some way towards
adopting these or analogous practices in connection with the
traditional devout observances. So there are "boys' brigades,"
and other organizations, under clerical sanction, acting to
develop the emulative proclivity and the sense of status in the
youthful members of the congregation. These pseudo-military
organizations tend to elaborate and accentuate the proclivity to
emulation and invidious comparison, and so strengthen the native
facility for discerning and approving the relation of personal
mastery and subservience. And a believer is eminently a person
who knows how to obey and accept chastisement with good grace.
     But the habits of thought which these practices foster and
conserve make up but one half of the substance of the
anthropomorphic cults. The other, complementary element of devout
life -- the animistic habit of mind -- is recruited and conserved
by a second range of practices organized under clerical sanction.
These are the class of gambling practices of which the church
bazaar or raffle may be taken as the type. As indicating the
degree of legitimacy of these practices in connection with devout
observances proper, it is to be remarked that these raffles, and
the like trivial opportunities for gambling, seem to appeal with
more effect to the common run of the members of religious
organizations than they do to persons of a less devout habit of
     All this seems to argue, on the one hand, that the same
temperament inclines people to sports as inclines them to the
anthropomorphic cults, and on the other hand that the habituation
to sports, perhaps especially to athletic sports, acts to develop
the propensities which find satisfaction in devout observances.
Conversely; it also appears that habituation to these observances
favors the growth of a proclivity for athletic sports and for all
games that give play to the habit of invidious comparison and of
the appeal to luck. Substantially the same range of propensities
finds expression in both these directions of the spiritual life.
That barbarian human nature in which the predatory instinct and
the animistic standpoint predominate is normally prone to both.
The predatory habit of mind involves an accentuated sense of
personal dignity and of the relative standing of individuals. The
social structure in which the predatory habit has been the
dominant factor in the shaping of institutions is a structure
based on status. The pervading norm in the predatory community's
scheme of life is the relation of superior and inferior, noble
and base, dominant and subservient persons and classes, master
and slave. The anthropomorphic cults have come down from that
stage of industrial development and have been shaped by the same
scheme of economic differentiation -- a differentiation into
consumer and producer -- and they are pervaded by the same
dominant principle of mastery and subservience. The cults impute
to their divinity the habits of thought answering to the stage of
economic differentiation at which the cults took shape. The
anthropomorphic divinity is conceived to be punctilious in all
questions of precedence and is prone to an assertion of mastery
and an arbitrary exercise of power -- an habitual resort to force
as the final arbiter.
     In the later and maturer formulations of the anthropomorphic
creed this imputed habit of dominance on the part of a divinity
of awful presence and inscrutable power is chastened into "the
fatherhood of God." The spiritual attitude and the aptitudes
imputed to the preternatural agent are still such as belong under
the regime of status, but they now assume the patriarchal cast
characteristic of the quasi-peaceable stage of culture. Still it
is to be noted that even in this advanced phase of the cult the
observances in which devoutness finds expression consistently aim
to propitiate the divinity by extolling his greatness and glory
and by professing subservience and fealty. The act of
propitiation or of worship is designed to appeal to a sense of
status imputed to the inscrutable power that is thus approached.
The propitiatory formulas most in vogue are still such as carry
or imply an invidious comparison. A loyal attachment to the
person of an anthropomorphic divinity endowed with such an
archaic human nature implies the like archaic propensities in the
devotee. For the purposes of economic theory, the relation of
fealty, whether to a physical or to an extraphysical person, is
to be taken as a variant of that personal subservience which
makes up so large a share of the predatory and the
quasi-peaceable scheme of life.
     The barbarian conception of the divinity, as a warlike
chieftain inclined to an overbearing manner of government, has
been greatly softened through the milder manners and the soberer
habits of life that characterize those cultural phases which lie
between the early predatory stage and the present. But even after
this chastening of the devout fancy, and the consequent
mitigation of the harsher traits of conduct and character that
are currently imputed to the divinity, there still remains in the
popular apprehension of the divine nature and temperament a very
substantial residue of the barbarian conception. So it comes
about, for instance, that in characterizing the divinity and his
relations to the process of human life, speakers and writers are
still able to make effective use of similes borrowed from the
vocabulary of war and of the predatory manner of life, as well as
of locutions which involve an invidious comparison. Figures of
speech of this import are used with good effect even in
addressing the less warlike modern audiences, made up of
adherents of the blander variants of the creed. This effective
use of barbarian epithets and terms of comparison by popular
speakers argues that the modern generation has retained a lively
appreciation of the dignity and merit of the barbarian virtues;
and it argues also that there is a degree of congruity between
the devout attitude and the predatory habit of mind. It is only
on second thought, if at all, that the devout fancy of modern
worshippers revolts at the imputation of ferocious and vengeful
emotions and actions to the object of their adoration. It is a
matter of common observation that sanguinary epithets applied to
the divinity have a high aesthetic and honorific value in the
popular apprehension. That is to say, suggestions which these
epithets carry are very acceptable to our unreflecting
   Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
   He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are
   He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift
   His truth is marching on.
     The guiding habits of thought of a devout person move on the
plane of an archaic scheme of life which has outlived much of its
usefulness for the economic exigencies of the collective life of
today. In so far as the economic organization fits the exigencies
of the collective life of today, it has outlived the regime of
status, and has no use and no place for a relation of personal
subserviency. So far as concerns the economic efficiency of the
community, the sentiment of personal fealty, and the general
habit of mind of which that sentiment is an expression, are
survivals which cumber the ground and hinder an adequate
adjustment of human institutions to the existing situation. The
habit of mind which best lends itself to the purposes of a
peaceable, industrial community, is that matter-of-fact temper
which recognizes the value of material facts simply as opaque
items in the mechanical sequence. It is that frame of mind which
does not instinctively impute an animistic propensity to things,
nor resort to preternatural intervention as an explanation of
perplexing phenomena, nor depend on an unseen hand to shape the
course of events to human use. To meet the requirements of the
highest economic efficiency under modern conditions, the world
process must habitually be apprehended in terms of quantitative,
dispassionate force and sequence.
     As seen from the point of view of the later economic
exigencies, devoutness is, perhaps in all cases, to be looked
upon as a survival from an earlier phase of associated life -- a
mark of arrested spiritual development. Of course it remains true
that in a community where the economic structure is still
substantially a system of status; where the attitude of the
average of persons in the community is consequently shaped by and
adapted to the relation of personal dominance and personal
subservience; or where for any other reason -- of tradition or of
inherited aptitude -- the population as a whole is strongly
inclined to devout observances; there a devout habit of mind in
any individual, not in excess of the average of the community,
must be taken simply as a detail of the prevalent habit of life.
In this light, a devout individual in a devout community can not
be called a case of reversion, since he is abreast of the average
of the community. But as seen from the point of view of the
modern industrial situation, exceptional devoutness -- devotional
zeal that rises appreciably above the average pitch of devoutness
in the community -- may safely be set down as in all cases an
atavistic trait.
     It is, of course, equally legitimate to consider these
phenomena from a different point of view. They may be appreciated
for a different purpose, and the characterization here offered
may be turned about. In speaking from the point of view of the
devotional interest, or the interest of devout taste, it may,
with equal cogency, be said that the spiritual attitude bred in
men by the modern industrial life is unfavorable to a free
development of the life of faith. It might fairly be objected to
the later development of the industrial process that its
discipline tends to "materialism," to the elimination of filial
piety. From the aesthetic point of view, again, something to a
similar purport might be said. But, however legitimate and
valuable these and the like reflections may be for their purpose,
they would not be in place in the present inquiry, which is
exclusively concerned with the valuation of these phenomena from
the economic point of view.
     The grave economic significance of the anthropomorphic habit
of mind and of the addiction to devout observances must serve as
apology for speaking further on a topic which it can not but be
distasteful to discuss at all as an economic phenomenon in a
community so devout as ours. Devout observances are of economic
importance as an index of a concomitant variation of temperament,
accompanying the predatory habit of mind and so indicating the
presence of industrially disserviceable traits. They indicate the
presence of a mental attitude which has a certain economic value
of its own by virtue of its influence upon the industrial
serviceability of the individual. But they are also of importance
more directly, in modifying the economic activities of the
community, especially as regards the distribution and consumption
of goods.
     The most obvious economic bearing of these observances is
seen in the devout consumption of goods and services. The
consumption of ceremonial paraphernalia required by any cult, in
the way of shrines, temples, churches, vestments, sacrifices,
sacraments, holiday attire, etc., serves no immediate material
end. All this material apparatus may, therefore, without implying
deprecation, be broadly characterized as items of conspicuous
waste. The like is true in a general way of the personal service
consumed under this head; such as priestly education, priestly
service, pilgrimages, fasts, holidays, household devotions, and
the like. At the same time the observances in the execution of
which this consumption takes place serve to extend and protract
the vogue of those habits of thought on which an anthropomorphic
cult rests. That is to say, they further the habits of thought
characteristic of the regime of status. They are in so far an
obstruction to the most effective organization of industry under
modern circumstances; and are, in the first instance,
antagonistic to the development of economic institutions in the
direction required by the situation of today. For the present
purpose, the indirect as well as the direct effects of this
consumption are of the nature of a curtailment of the community's
economic efficiency. In economic theory, then, and considered in
its proximate consequences, the consumption of goods and effort
in the service of an anthropomorphic divinity means a lowering of
the vitality of the community. What may be the remoter, indirect,
moral effects of this class of consumption does not admit of a
succinct answer, and it is a question which can not be taken up
     It will be to the point, however, to note the general
economic character of devout consumption, in comparison with
consumption for other purposes. An indication of the range of
motives and purposes from which devout consumption of goods
proceeds will help toward an appreciation of the value both of
this consumption itself and of the general habit of mind to which
it is congenial. There is a striking parallelism, if not rather a
substantial identity of motive, between the consumption which
goes to the service of an anthropomorphic divinity and that which
goes to the service of a gentleman of leisure chieftain or
patriarch -- in the upper class of society during the barbarian
culture. Both in the case of the chieftain and in that of the
divinity there are expensive edifices set apart for the behoof of
the person served. These edifices, as well as the properties
which supplement them in the service, must not be common in kind
or grade; they always show a large element of conspicuous waste.
It may also be noted that the devout edifices are invariably of
an archaic cast in their structure and fittings. So also the
servants, both of the chieftain and of the divinity, must appear
in the presence clothed in garments of a special, ornate
character. The characteristic economic feature of this apparel is
a more than ordinarily accentuated conspicuous waste, together
with the secondary feature -- more accentuated in the case of the
priestly servants than in that of the servants or courtiers of
the barbarian potentate -- that this court dress must always be
in some degree of an archaic fashion. Also the garments worn by
the lay members of the community when they come into the
presence, should be of a more expensive kind than their everyday
apparel. Here, again, the parallelism between the usage of the
chieftain's audience hall and that of the sanctuary is fairly
well marked. In this respect there is required a certain
ceremonial "cleanness" of attire, the essential feature of which,
in the economic respect, is that the garments worn on these
occasions should carry as little suggestion as may be of any
industrial occupation or of any habitual addiction to such
employments as are of material use.
     This requirement of conspicuous waste and of ceremonial
cleanness from the traces of industry extends also to the
apparel, and in a less degree to the food, which is consumed on
sacred holidays; that is to say, on days set apart -- tabu -- for
the divinity or for some member of the lower ranks of the
preternatural leisure class. In economic theory, sacred holidays
are obviously to be construed as a season of vicarious leisure
performed for the divinity or saint in whose name the tabu is
imposed and to whose good repute the abstention from useful
effort on these days is conceived to inure. The characteristic
feature of all such seasons of devout vicarious leisure is a more
or less rigid tabu on all activity that is of human use. In the
case of fast-days the conspicuous abstention from gainful
occupations and from all pursuits that (materially) further human
life is further accentuated by compulsory abstinence from such
consumption as would conduce to the comfort or the fullness of
life of the consumer.
     It may be remarked, parenthetically, that secular holidays
are of the same origin, by slightly remoter derivation. They
shade off by degrees from the genuinely sacred days, through an
intermediate class of semi-sacred birthdays of kings and great
men who have been in some measure canonized, to the deliberately
invented holiday set apart to further the good repute of some
notable event or some striking fact, to which it is intended to
do honor, or the good fame of which is felt to be in need of
repair. The remoter refinement in the employment of vicarious
leisure as a means of augmenting the good repute of a phenomenon
or datum is seen at its best in its very latest application. A
day of vicarious leisure has in some communities been set apart
as Labor Day. This observance is designed to augment the prestige
of the fact of labor, by the archaic, predatory method of a
compulsory abstention from useful effort. To this datum of
labor-in-general is imputed the good repute attributable to the
pecuniary strength put in evidence by abstaining from labor.
     Sacred holidays, and holidays generally, are of the nature
of a tribute levied on the body of the people. The tribute is
paid in vicarious leisure, and the honorific effect which emerges
is imputed to the person or the fact for whose good repute the
holiday has been instituted. Such a tithe of vicarious leisure is
a perquisite of all members of the preternatural leisure class
and is indispensable to their good fame. Un saint qu'on ne chme
pas is indeed a saint fallen on evil days.
     Besides this tithe of vicarious leisure levied on the laity,
there are also special classes of persons -- the various grades
of priests and hierodules -- whose time is wholly set apart for a
similar service. It is not only incumbent on the priestly class
to abstain from vulgar labor, especially so far as it is
lucrative or is apprehended to contribute to the temporal
well-being of mankind. The tabu in the case of the priestly class
goes farther and adds a refinement in the form of an injunction
against their seeking worldly gain even where it may be had
without debasing application to industry. It is felt to he
unworthy of the servant of the divinity, or rather unworthy the
dignity of the divinity whose servant he is, that he should seek
material gain or take thought for temporal matters. "Of all
contemptible things a man who pretends to be a priest of God and
is a priest to his own comforts and ambitions is the most
contemptible." There is a line of discrimination, which a
cultivated taste in matters of devout observance finds little
difficulty in drawing, between such actions and conduct as
conduce to the fullness of human life and such as conduce to the
good fame of the anthropomorphic divinity; and the activity of
the priestly class, in the ideal barbarian scheme, falls wholly
on the hither side of this line. What falls within the range of
economics falls below the proper level of solicitude of the
priesthood in its best estate. Such apparent exceptions to this
rule as are afforded, for instance, by some of the medieval
orders of monks (the members of which actually labored to some
useful end), scarcely impugn the rule. These outlying orders of
the priestly class are not a sacerdotal element in the full sense
of the term. And it is noticeable also that these doubtfully
sacerdotal orders, which countenanced their members in earning a
living, fell into disrepute through offending the sense of
propriety in the communities where they existed.
     The priest should not put his hand to mechanically
productive work; but he should consume in large measure. But even
as regards his consumption it is to be noted that it should take
such forms as do not obviously conduce to his own comfort or
fullness of life; it should conform to the rules governing
vicarious consumption, as explained under that head in an earlier
chapter. It is not ordinarily in good form for the priestly class
to appear well fed or in hilarious spirits. Indeed, in many of
the more elaborate cults the injunction against other than
vicarious consumption by this class frequently goes so far as to
enjoin mortification of the flesh. And even in those modern
denominations which have been organized under the latest
formulations of the creed, in a modern industrial community, it
is felt that all levity and avowed zest in the enjoyment of the
good things of this world is alien to the true clerical decorum.
Whatever suggests that these servants of an invisible master are
living a life, not of devotion to their master's good fame, but
of application to their own ends, jars harshly on our
sensibilities as something fundamentally and eternally wrong.
They are a servant class, although, being servants of a very
exalted master, they rank high in the social scale by virtue of
this borrowed light. Their consumption is vicarious consumption;
and since, in the advanced cults, their master has no need of
material gain, their occupation is vicarious leisure in the full
sense. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God." It may be added that so far as the
laity is assimilated to the priesthood in the respect that they
are conceived to he servants of the divinity. so far this imputed
vicarious character attaches also to the layman's life. The range
of application of this corollary is somewhat wide. It applies
especially to such movements for the reform or rehabilitation of
the religious life as are of an austere, pietistic, ascetic cast
-- where the human subject is conceived to hold his life by a
direct servile tenure from his spiritual sovereign. That is to
say, where the institution of the priesthood lapses, or where
there is an exceptionally lively sense of the immediate and
masterful presence of the divinity in the affairs of life, there
the layman is conceived to stand in an immediate servile relation
to the divinity, and his life is construed to be a performance of
vicarious leisure directed to the enhancement of his master's
repute. In such cases of reversion there is a return to the
unmediated relation of subservience, as the dominant fact of the
devout attitude. The emphasis is thereby throw on an austere and
discomforting vicarious leisure, to the neglect of conspicuous
consumption as a means of grace.
     A doubt will present itself as to the full legitimacy of
this characterization of the sacerdotal scheme of life, on the
ground that a considerable proportion of the modern priesthood
departs from the scheme in many details. The scheme does not hold
good for the clergy of those denominations which have in some
measure diverged from the old established schedule of beliefs or
observances. These take thought, at least ostensibly or
permissively, for the temporal welfare of the laity, as well as
for their own. Their manner of life, not only in the privacy of
their own household, but often even before the public, does not
differ in an extreme degree from that of secular-minded persons,
either in its ostensible austerity or in the archaism of its
apparatus. This is truest for those denominations that have
wandered the farthest. To this objection it is to be said that we
have here to do not with a discrepancy in the theory of
sacerdotal life, but with an imperfect conformity to the scheme
on the part of this body of clergy. They are but a partial and
imperfect representative of the priesthood, and must not be taken
as exhibiting the sacerdotal scheme of life in an authentic and
competent manner. The clergy of the sects and denominations might
be characterized as a half-caste priesthood, or a priesthood in
process of becoming or of reconstitution. Such a priesthood may
be expected to show the characteristics of the sacerdotal office
only as blended and obscured with alien motives and traditions,
due to the disturbing presence of other factors than those of
animism and status in the purposes of the organizations to which
this non-conforming fraction of the priesthood belongs.
     Appeal may be taken direct to the taste of any person with a
discriminating and cultivated sense of the sacerdotal
proprieties, or to the prevalent sense of what constitutes
clerical decorum in any community at all accustomed to think or
to pass criticism on what a clergyman may or may not do without
blame. Even in the most extremely secularized denominations,
there is some sense of a distinction that should be observed
between the sacerdotal and the lay scheme of life. There is no
person of sensibility but feels that where the members of this
denominational or sectarian clergy depart from traditional usage,
in the direction of a less austere or less archaic demeanor and
apparel, they are departing from the ideal of priestly decorum.
There is probably no community and no sect within the range of
the Western culture in which the bounds of permissible indulgence
are not drawn appreciably closer for the incumbent of the
priestly office than for the common layman. If the priest's own
sense of sacerdotal propriety does not effectually impose a
limit, the prevalent sense of the proprieties on the part of the
community will commonly assert itself so obtrusively as to lead
to his conformity or his retirement from office.
     Few if any members of any body of clergy, it may be added,
would avowedly seek an increase of salary for gain's sake; and if
such avowal were openly made by a clergyman, it would be found
obnoxious to the sense of propriety among his congregation. It
may also be noted in this connection that no one but the scoffers
and the very obtuse are not instinctively grieved inwardly at a
jest from the pulpit; and that there are none whose respect for
their pastor does not suffer through any mark of levity on his
part in any conjuncture of life, except it be levity of a
palpably histrionic kind -- a constrained unbending of dignity.
The diction proper to the sanctuary and to the priestly office
should also carry little if any suggestion of effective everyday
life, and should not draw upon the vocabulary of modern trade or
industry. Likewise, one's sense of the proprieties is readily
offended by too detailed and intimate a handling of industrial
and other purely human questions at the hands of the clergy.
There is a certain level of generality below which a cultivated
sense of the proprieties in homiletical discourse will not permit
a well-bred clergyman to decline in his discussion of temporal
interests. These matters that are of human and secular
consequence simply, should properly be handled with such a degree
of generality and aloofness as may imply that the speaker
represents a master whose interest in secular affairs goes only
so far as to permissively countenance them.
     It is further to be noticed that the non-conforming sects
and variants whose priesthood is here under discussion, vary
among themselves in the degree of their conformity to the ideal
scheme of sacerdotal life. In a general way it will be found that
the divergence in this respect is widest in the case of the
relatively young denominations, and especially in the case of
such of the newer denominations as have chiefly a lower
middle-class constituency. They commonly show a large admixture
of humanitarian, philanthropic, or other motives which can not be
classed as expressions of the devotional attitude; such as the
desire of learning or of conviviality, which enter largely into
the effective interest shown by members of these organizations.
The non-conforming or sectarian movements have commonly proceeded
from a mixture of motives, some of which are at variance with
that sense of status on which the priestly office rests.
Sometimes, indeed, the motive has been in good part a revulsion
against a system of status. Where this is the case the
institution of the priesthood has broken down in the transition,
at least partially. The spokesman of such an organization is at
the outset a servant and representative of the organization,
rather than a member of a special priestly class and the
spokesman of a divine master. And it is only by a process of
gradual specialization that, in succeeding generations, this
spokesman regains the position of priest, with a full investiture
of sacerdotal authority, and with its accompanying austere,
archaic and vicarious manner of life. The like is true of the
breakdown and redintegration of devout ritual after such a
revulsion. The priestly office, the scheme of sacerdotal life,
and the schedule of devout observances are rehabilitated only
gradually, insensibly, and with more or less variation in
details, as a persistent human sense of devout propriety
reasserts its primacy in questions touching the interest in the
preternatural -- and it may be added, as the organization
increases in wealth, and so acquires more of the point of view
and the habits of thought of a leisure class.
     Beyond the priestly class, and ranged in an ascending
hierarchy,ordinarily comes a superhuman vicarious leisure class
of saints, angels, etc. -- or their equivalents in the ethnic
cults. These rise in grade, one above another, according to
elaborate system of status. The principle of status runs through
the entire hierarchical system, both visible and invisible. The
good fame of these several orders of the supernatural hierarchy
also commonly requires a certain tribute of vicarious consumption
and vicarious leisure. In many cases they accordingly have
devoted to their service sub-orders of attendants or dependents
who perform a vicarious leisure for them, after much the same
fashion as was found in an earlier chapter to be true of the
dependent leisure class under the patriarchal system.
     It may not appear without reflection how these devout
observances and the peculiarity of temperament which they imply,
or the consumption of goods and services which is comprised in
the cult, stand related to the leisure class of a modern
community, or to the economic motives of which that class is the
exponent in the modern scheme of life to this end a summary
review of certain facts bearing on this relation will be useful.
     It appears from an earlier passage in this discussion that
for the purpose of the collective life of today, especially so
far as concerns the industrial efficiency of the modern
community, the characteristic traits of the devout temperament
are a hindrance rather than a help. It should accordingly be
found that the modern industrial life tends selectively to
eliminate these traits of human nature from the spiritual
constitution of the classes that are immediately engaged in the
industrial process. It should hold true, approximately, that
devoutness is declining or tending to obsolescence among the
members of what may be called the effective industrial community.
At the same time it should appear that this aptitude or habit
survives in appreciably greater vigor among those classes which
do not immediately or primarily enter into the community's life
process as an industrial factor.
     It has already been pointed out that these latter classes,
which live by, rather than in, the industrial process, are
roughly comprised under two categories (1) the leisure class
proper, which is shielded from the stress of the economic
situation; and (2) the indigent classes, including the
lower-class delinquents, which are unduly exposed to the stress.
In the case of the former class an archaic habit of mind persists
because no effectual economic pressure constrains this class to
an adaptation of its habits of thought to the changing situation;
while in the latter the reason for a failure to adjust their
habits of thought to the altered requirements of industrial
efficiency is innutrition, absence of such surplus of energy as
is needed in order to make the adjustment with facility, together
with a lack of opportunity to acquire and become habituated to
the modern point of view. The trend of the selective process runs
in much the same direction in both cases.
     From the point of view which the modern industrial life
inculcates, phenomena are habitually subsumed under the
quantitative relation of mechanical sequence. The indigent
classes not only fall short of the modicum of leisure necessary
in order to appropriate and assimilate the more recent
generalizations of science which this point of view involves, but
they also ordinarily stand in such a relation of personal
dependence or subservience to their pecuniary superiors as
materially to retard their emancipation from habits of thought
proper to the regime of status. The result is that these classes
in some measure retain that general habit of mind the chief
expression of which is a strong sense of personal status, and of
which devoutness is one feature.
     In the older communities of the European culture, the
hereditary leisure class, together with the mass of the indigent
population, are given to devout observances in an appreciably
higher degree than the average of the industrious middle class,
wherever a considerable class of the latter character exists. But
in some of these countries, the two categories of conservative
humanity named above comprise virtually the whole population.
Where these two classes greatly preponderate, their bent shapes
popular sentiment to such an extent as to bear down any possible
divergent tendency in the inconsiderable middle class, and
imposes a devout attitude upon the whole community.
     This must, of course, not be construed to say that such
communities or such classes as are exceptionally prone to devout
observances tend to conform in any exceptional degree to the
specifications of any code of morals that we may be accustomed to
associate with this or that confession of faith. A large measure
of the devout habit of mind need not carry with it a strict
observance of the injunctions of the Decalogue or of the common
law. Indeed, it is becoming somewhat of a commonplace with
observers of criminal life in European communities that the
criminal and dissolute classes are, if anything, rather more
devout, and more naively so, than the average of the population.
It is among those who constitute the pecuniary middle class and
the body of law-abiding citizens that a relative exemption from
the devotional attitude is to be looked for. Those who best
appreciate the merits of the higher creeds and observances would
object to all this and say that the devoutness of the low-class
delinquents is a spurious, or at the best a superstitious
devoutness; and the point is no doubt well taken and goes
directly and cogently to the purpose intended. But for the
purpose of the present inquiry these extra-economic,
extra-psychological distinctions must perforce be neglected,
however valid and however decisive they may be for the purpose
for which they are made.
     What has actually taken place with regard to class
emancipation from the habit of devout observance is shown by the
latter-day complaint of the clergy -- that the churches are
losing the sympathy of the artisan classes, and are losing their
hold upon them. At the same time it is currently believed that
the middle class, commonly so called, is also falling away in the
cordiality of its support of the church, especially so far as
regards the adult male portion of that class. These are currently
recognized phenomena, and it might seem that a simple reference
to these facts should sufficiently substantiate the general
position outlined. Such an appeal to the general phenomena of
popular church attendance and church membership may be
sufficiently convincing for the proposition here advanced. But it
will still be to the purpose to trace in some detail the course
of events and the particular forces which have wrought this
change in the spiritual attitude of the more advanced industrial
communities of today. It will serve to illustrate the manner in
which economic causes work towards a secularization of men's
habits of thought. In this respect the American community should
afford an exceptionally convincing illustration, since this
community has been the least trammelled by external circumstances
of any equally important industrial aggregate.
     After making due allowance for exceptions and sporadic
departures from the normal, the situation here at the present
time may be summarized quite briefly. As a general rule the
classes that are low in economic efficiency, or in intelligence,
or both, are peculiarly devout -- as, for instance, the Negro
population of the South, much of the lower-class foreign
population, much of the rural population, especially in those
sections which are backward in education, in the stage of
development of their industry, or in respect of their industrial
contact with the rest of the community. So also such fragments as
we possess of a specialized or hereditary indigent class, or of a
segregated criminal or dissolute class; although among these
latter the devout habit of mind is apt to take the form of a
naive animistic belief in luck and in the efficacy of shamanistic
practices perhaps more frequently than it takes the form of a
formal adherence to any accredited creed. The artisan class, on
the other hand, is notoriously falling away from the accredited
anthropomorphic creeds and from all devout observances. This
class is in an especial degree exposed to the characteristic
intellectual and spiritual stress of modern organized industry,
which requires a constant recognition of the undisguised
phenomena of impersonal, matter-of-fact sequence and an
unreserved conformity to the law of cause and effect. This class
is at the same time not underfed nor over-worked to such an
extent as to leave no margin of energy for the work of
     The case of the lower or doubtful leisure class in America
-- the middle class commonly so called -- is somewhat peculiar.
It differs in respect of its devotional life from its European
counterpart, but it differs in degree and method rather than in
substance. The churches still have the pecuniary support of this
class; although the creeds to which the class adheres with the
greatest facility are relatively poor in anthropomorphic content.
At the same time the effective middle-class congregation tends,
in many cases, more or less remotely perhaps, to become a
congregation of women and minors. There is an appreciable lack of
devotional fervor among the adult males of the middle class,
although to a considerable extent there survives among them a
certain complacent, reputable assent to the outlines of the
accredited creed under which they were born. Their everyday life
is carried on in a more or less close contact with the industrial
     This peculiar sexual differentiation, which tends to
delegate devout observances to the women and their children, is
due, at least in part, to the fact that the middle-class women
are in great measure a (vicarious) leisure class. The same is
true in a less degree of the women of the lower, artisan classes.
They live under a regime of status handed down from an earlier
stage of industrial development, and thereby they preserve a
frame of mind and habits of thought which incline them to an
archaic view of things generally. At the same time they stand in
no such direct organic relation to the industrial process at
large as would tend strongly to break down those habits of
thought which, for the modern industrial purpose, are obsolete.
That is to say, the peculiar devoutness of women is a particular
expression of that conservatism which the women of civilized
communities owe, in great measure, to their economic position.
For the modern man the patriarchal relation of status is by no
means the dominant feature of life; but for the women on the
other hand, and for the upper middle-class women especially,
confined as they are by prescription and by economic
circumstances to their "domestic sphere," this relation is the
most real and most formative factor of life. Hence a habit of
mind favorable to devout observances and to the interpretation of
the facts of life generally in terms of personal status. The
logic, and the logical processes, of her everyday domestic life
are carried over into the realm of the supernatural, and the
woman finds herself at home and content in a range of ideas which
to the man are in great measure alien and imbecile. 
     Still the men of this class are also not devoid of piety,
although it is commonly not piety of an aggressive or exuberant
kind. The men of the upper middle class commonly take a more
complacent attitude towards devout observances than the men of
the artisan class. This may perhaps be explained in part by
saying that what is true of the women of the class is true to a
less extent also of the men. They are to an appreciable extent a
sheltered class; and the patriarchal relation of status which
still persists in their conjugal life and in their habitual use
of servants, may also act to conserve an archaic habit of mind
and may exercise a retarding influence upon the process of
secularization which their habits of thought are undergoing. The
relations of the American middle-class man to the economic
community, however, are usually pretty close and exacting;
although it may be remarked, by the way and in qualification,
that their economic activity frequently also partakes in some
degree of the patriarchal or quasi-predatory character. The
occupations which are in good repute among this class and which
have most to do with shaping the class habits of thought, are the
pecuniary occupations which have been spoken of in a similar
connection in an earlier chapter. There is a good deal of the
relation of arbitrary command and submission, and not a little of
shrewd practice, remotely akin to predatory fraud. All this
belongs on the plane of life of the predatory barbarian, to whom
a devotional attitude is habitual. And in addition to this, the
devout observances also commend themselves to this class on the
ground of reputability. But this latter incentive to piety
deserves treatment by itself and will be spoken of presently.
     There is no hereditary leisure class of any consequence in
the American community, except in the South. This Southern
leisure class is somewhat given to devout observances; more so
than any class of corresponding pecuniary standing in other parts
of the country. It is also well known that the creeds of the
South are of a more old-fashioned cast than their counterparts in
the North. Corresponding to this more archaic devotional life of
the South is the lower industrial development of that section.
The industrial organization of the South is at present, and
especially it has been until quite recently, of a more primitive
character than that of the American community taken as a whole.
It approaches nearer to handicraft, in the paucity and rudeness
of its mechanical appliances, and there is more of the element of
mastery and subservience. It may also be noted that, owing to the
peculiar economic circumstances of this section, the greater
devoutness of the Southern population, both white and black, is
correlated with a scheme of life which in many ways recalls the
barbarian stages of industrial development. Among this population
offenses of an archaic character also are and have been
relatively more prevalent and are less deprecated than they are
elsewhere; as, for example, duels, brawls, feuds, drunkenness,
horse-racing, cock-fighting, gambling, male sexual incontinence
(evidenced by the considerable number of mulattoes). There is
also a livelier sense of honor -- an expression of sportsmanship
and a derivative of predatory life.
     As regards the wealthier class of the North, the American
leisure class in the best sense of the term, it is, to begin
with, scarcely possible to speak of an hereditary devotional
attitude. This class is of too recent growth to be possessed of a
well-formed transmitted habit in this respect, or even of a
special home-grown tradition. Still, it may be noted in passing
that there is a perceptible tendency among this class to give in
at least a nominal, and apparently something of a real, adherence
to some one of the accredited creeds. Also, weddings, funerals,
and the like honorific events among this class are pretty
uniformly solemnized with some especial degree of religious
circumstance. It is impossible to say how far this adherence to a
creed is a bona fide reversion to a devout habit of mind, and how
far it is to be classed as a case of protective mimicry assumed
for the purpose of an outward assimilation to canons of
reputability borrowed from foreign ideals. Something of a
substantial devotional propensity seems to be present, to judge
especially by the somewhat peculiar degree of ritualistic
observance which is in process of development in the upper-class
cults. There is a tendency perceptible among the upper-class
worshippers to affiliate themselves with those cults which lay
relatively great stress on ceremonial and on the spectacular
accessories of worship; and in the churches in which an
upper-class membership predominates, there is at the same time a
tendency to accentuate the ritualistic, at the cost of the
intellectual features in the service and in the apparatus of the
devout observances. This holds true even where the church in
question belongs to a denomination with a relatively slight
general development of ritual and paraphernalia. This peculiar
development of the ritualistic element is no doubt due in part to
a predilection for conspicuously wasteful spectacles, but it
probably also in part indicates something of the devotional
attitude of the worshippers. So far as the latter is true, it
indicates a relatively archaic form of the devotional habit. The
predominance of spectacular effects in devout observances is
noticeable in all devout communities at a relatively primitive
stage of culture and with a slight intellectual development. It
is especially characteristic of the barbarian culture. Here there
is pretty uniformly present in the devout observances a direct
appeal to the emotions through all the avenues of sense. And a
tendency to return to this naive, sensational method of appeal is
unmistakable in the upper-class churches of today. It is
perceptible in a less degree in the cults which claim the
allegiance of the lower leisure class and of the middle classes.
There is a reversion to the use of colored lights and brilliant
spectacles, a freer use of symbols, orchestral music and incense,
and one may even detect in "processionals" and "recessionals" and
in richly varied genuflexional evolutions, an incipient reversion
to so antique an accessory of worship as the sacred dance.
     This reversion to spectacular observances is not confined to
the upper-class cults, although it finds its best exemplification
and its highest accentuation in the higher pecuniary and social
altitudes. The cults of the lower-class devout portion of the
community, such as the Southern Negroes and the backward foreign
elements of the population, of course also show a strong
inclination to ritual, symbolism, and spectacular effects; as
might be expected from the antecedents and the cultural level of
those classes. With these classes the prevalence of ritual and
anthropomorphism are not so much a matter of reversion as of
continued development out of the past. But the use of ritual and
related features of devotion are also spreading in other
directions. In the early days of the American community the
prevailing denominations started out with a ritual and
paraphernalia of an austere simplicity; but it is a matter
familiar to every one that in the course of time these
denominations have, in a varying degree, adopted much of the
spectacular elements which they once renounced. In a general way,
this development has gone hand in hand with the growth of the
wealth and the ease of life of the worshippers and has reached
its fullest expression among those classes which grade highest in
wealth and repute.
     The causes to which this pecuniary stratification of
devoutness is due have already been indicated in a general way in
speaking of class differences in habits of thought. Class
differences as regards devoutness are but a special expression of
a generic fact. The lax allegiance of the lower middle class, or
what may broadly be called the failure of filial piety among this
class, is chiefly perceptible among the town populations engaged
in the mechanical industries. In a general way, one does not, at
the present time, look for a blameless filial piety among those
classes whose employment approaches that of the engineer and the
mechanician. These mechanical employments are in a degree a
modern fact. The handicraftsmen of earlier times, who served an
industrial end of a character similar to that now served by the
mechanician, were not similarily refractory under the discipline
of devoutness. The habitual activity of the men engaged in these
branches of industry has greatly changed, as regards its
intellectual discipline, since the modern industrial processes
have come into vogue; and the discipline to which the mechanician
is exposed in his daily employment affects the methods and
standards of his thinking also on topics which lie outside his
everyday work. Familiarity with the highly organized and highly
impersonal industrial processes of the present acts to derange
the animistic habits of thought. The workman's office is becoming
more and more exclusively that of discretion and supervision in a
process of mechanical, dispassionate sequences. So long as the
individual is the chief and typical prime mover in the process;
so long as the obtrusive feature of the industrial process is the
dexterity and force of the individual handicraftsman; so long the
habit of interpreting phenomena in terms of personal motive and
propensity suffers no such considerable and consistent
derangement through facts as to lead to its elimination. But
under the later developed industrial processes, when the prime
movers and the contrivances through which they work are of an
impersonal, non-individual character, the grounds of
generalization habitually present in the workman's mind and the
point of view from which he habitually apprehends phenomena is an
enforced cognizance of matter-of-fact sequence. The result, so
far as concerts the workman's life of faith, is a proclivity to
undevout scepticism.
     It appears, then, that the devout habit of mind attains its
best development under a relatively archaic culture; the term
"devout" being of course here used in its anthropological sense
simply, and not as implying anything with respect to the
spiritual attitude so characterized, beyond the fact of a
proneness to devout observances. It appears also that this devout
attitude marks a type of human nature which is more in consonance
with the predatory mode of life than with the later-developed,
more consistently and organically industrial life process of the
community. It is in large measure an expression of the archaic
habitual sense of personal status -- the relation of mastery and
subservience -- and it therefore fits into the industrial scheme
of the predatory and the quasi-peaceable culture, but does not
fit into the industrial scheme of the present. It also appears
that this habit persists with greatest tenacity among those
classes in the modern communities whose everyday life is most
remote from the mechanical processes of industry and which are
the most conservative also in other respects; while for those
classes that are habitually in immediate contact with modern
industrial processes, and whose habits of thought are therefore
exposed to the constraining force of technological necessities,
that animistic interpretation of phenomena and that respect of
persons on which devout observance proceeds are in process of
obsolescence. And also -- as bearing especially on the present
discussion -- it appears that the devout habit to some extent
progressively gains in scope and elaboration among those classes
in the modern communities to whom wealth and leisure accrue in
the most pronounced degree. In this as in other relations, the
institution of a leisure class acts to conserve, and even to
rehabilitate, that archaic type of human nature and those
elements of the archaic culture which the industrial evolution of
society in its later stages acts to eliminate.