The Theory of the Leisure Class
by Thorstein Veblen

Chapter Thirteen
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


Survivals of the Non-Invidious Interests
     In an increasing proportion as time goes on, the
anthropomorphic cult, with its code of devout observations,
suffers a progressive disintegration through the stress of
economic exigencies and the decay of the system of status. As
this disintegration proceeds, there come to be associated and
blended with the devout attitude certain other motives and
impulses that are not always of an anthropomorphic origin, nor
traceable to the habit of personal subservience. Not all of these
subsidiary impulses that blend with the habit of devoutness in
the later devotional life are altogether congruous with the
devout attitude or with the anthropomorphic apprehension of the
sequence of phenomena. The origin being not the same, their
action upon the scheme of devout life is also not in the same
direction. In many ways they traverse the underlying norm of
subservience or vicarious life to which the code of devout
observations and the ecclesiastical and sacerdotal institutions
are to be traced as their substantial basis. Through the presence
of these alien motives the social and industrial regime of status
gradually disintegrates, and the canon of personal subservience
loses the support derived from an unbroken tradition. Extraneous
habits and proclivities encroach upon the field of action
occupied by this canon, and it presently comes about that the
ecclesiastical and sacerdotal structures are partially converted
to other uses, in some measure alien to the purposes of the
scheme of devout life as it stood in the days of the most
vigorous and characteristic development of the priesthood.
     Among these alien motives which affect the devout scheme in
its later growth, may be mentioned the motives of charity and of
social good-fellowship, or conviviality; or, in more general
terms, the various expressions of the sense of human solidarity
and sympathy. It may be added that these extraneous uses of the
ecclesiastical structure contribute materially to its survival in
name and form even among people who may be ready to give up the
substance of it. A still more characteristic and more pervasive
alien element in the motives which have gone to formally uphold
the scheme of devout life is that non-reverent sense of aesthetic
congruity with the environment, which is left as a residue of the
latter-day act of worship after elimination of its
anthropomorphic content. This has done good service for the
maintenance of the sacerdotal institution through blending with
the motive of subservience. This sense of impulse of aesthetic
congruity is not primarily of an economic character, but it has a
considerable indirect effect in shaping the habit of mind of the
individual for economic purposes in the later stages of
industrial development; its most perceptible effect in this
regard goes in the direction of mitigating the somewhat
pronounced self-regarding bias that has been transmitted by
tradition from the earlier, more competent phases of the regime
of status. The economic bearing of this impulse is therefore seen
to transverse that of the devout attitude; the former goes to
qualify, if not eliminate, the self-regarding bias, through
sublation of the antithesis or antagonism of self and not-self;
while the latter, being and expression of the sense of personal
subservience and mastery, goes to accentuate this antithesis and
to insist upon the divergence between the self-regarding interest
and the interests of the generically human life process.
     This non-invidious residue of the religious life -- the
sense of communion with the environment, or with the generic life
process -- as well as the impulse of charity or of sociability,
act in a pervasive way to shape men's habits of thought for the
economic purpose. But the action of all this class of
proclivities is somewhat vague, and their effects are difficult
to trace in detail. So much seems clear, however, as that the
action of this entire class of motives or aptitudes tends in a
direction contrary to the underlying principles of the
institution of the leisure class as already formulated. The basis
of that institution, as well as of the anthropomorphic cults
associated with it in the cultural development, is the habit of
invidious comparison; and this habit is incongruous with the
exercise of the aptitudes now in question. The substantial canons
of the leisure-class scheme of life are a conspicuous waste of
time and substance and a withdrawal from the industrial process;
while the particular aptitudes here in question assert
themselves, on the economic side, in a deprecation of waste and
of a futile manner of life, and in an impulse to participation in
or identification with the life process, whether it be on the
economic side or in any other of its phases or aspects.
     It is plain that these aptitudes and habits of life to which
they give rise where circumstances favor their expression, or
where they assert themselves in a dominant way, run counter to
the leisure-class scheme of life; but it is not clear that life
under the leisure-class scheme, as seen in the later stages of
its development, tends consistently to the repression of these
aptitudes or to exemption from the habits of thought in which
they express themselves. The positive discipline of the
leisureclass scheme of life goes pretty much all the other way.
In its positive discipline, by prescription and by selective
elimination, the leisure-class scheme favors the all-pervading
and all-dominating primacy of the canons of waste and invidious
comparison at every conjuncture of life. But in its negative
effects the tendency of the leisure-class discipline is not so
unequivocally true to the fundamental canons of the scheme. In
its regulation of human activity for the purpose of pecuniary
decency the leisure-class canon insists on withdrawal from the
industrial process. That is to say, it inhibits activity in the
directions in which the impecunious members of the community
habitually put forth their efforts. Especially in the case of
women, and more particularly as regards the upper-class and
upper-middle-class women of advanced industrial communities, this
inhibition goes so far as to insist on withdrawal even from the
emulative process of accumulation by the quasi-predator methods
of the pecuniary occupations.
     The pecuniary or the leisure-class culture, which set out as
an emulative variant of the impulse of workmanship, is in its
latest development beginning to neutralize its own ground, by
eliminating the habit of invidious comparison in respect of
efficiency, or even of pecuniary standing. On the other hand, the
fact that members of the leisure class, both men and women, are
to some extent exempt from the necessity of finding a livelihood
in a competitive struggle with their fellows, makes it possible
for members of this class not only to survive, but even, within
bounds, to follow their bent in case they are not gifted with the
aptitudes which make for success in the competitive struggle.
That is to say, in the latest and fullest development of the
institution, the livelihood of members of this class does not
depend on the possession and the unremitting exercise of those
aptitudes are therefore greater in the higher grades of the
leisure class than in the general average of a population living
under the competitive system.
     In an earlier chapter, in discussing the conditions of
survival of archaic traits, it has appeared that the peculiar
position of the leisure class affords exceptionally favorable
chances for the survival of traits which characterize the type of
human nature proper to an earlier and obsolete cultural stage.
The class is sheltered from the stress of economic exigencies,
and is in this sense withdrawn from the rude impact of forces
which make for adaptation to the economic situation. The survival
in the leisure class, and under the leisure-class scheme of life,
of traits and types that are reminiscent of the predatory culture
has already been discussed. These aptitudes and habits have an
exceptionally favorable chance of survival under the
leisureclass regime. Not only does the sheltered pecuniary
position of the leisure class afford a situation favorable to the
survival of such individuals as are not gifted with the
complement of aptitudes required for serviceability in the modern
industrial process; but the leisure-class canons of reputability
at the same time enjoin the conspicuous exercise of certain
predatory aptitudes. The employments in which the predatory
aptitudes find exercise serve as an evidence of wealth, birth,
and withdrawal from the industrial process. The survival of the
predatory traits under the leisure-class culture is furthered
both negatively, through the industrial exemption of the class,
and positively, through the sanction of the leisure-class canons
of decency.
     With respect to the survival of traits characteristic of the
ante-predatory savage culture the case is in some degree
different. The sheltered position of the leisure class favors the
survival also of these traits; but the exercise of the aptitudes
for peace and good-will does not have the affirmative sanction of
the code of proprieties. Individuals gifted with a temperament
that is reminiscent of the ante-predatory culture are placed at
something of an advantage within the leisure class, as compared
with similarly gifted individuals outside the class, in that they
are not under a pecuniary necessity to thwart these aptitudes
that make for a non-competitive life; but such individuals are
still exposed to something of a moral constraint which urges them
to disregard these inclinations, in that the code of proprieties
enjoins upon them habits of life based on the predatory
aptitudes. So long as the system of status remains intact, and so
long as the leisure class has other lines of nonindustrial
activity to take to than obvious killing of time in aimless and
wasteful fatigation, so long no considerable departure from the
leisure-class scheme of reputable life is to be looked for. The
occurrence of non-predatory temperament with the class at that
stage is to be looked upon as a case of sporadic reversion. But
the reputable non-industrial outlets for the human propensity to
action presently fail, through the advance of economic
development, the disappearance of large game, the decline of war,
the obsolescence of proprietary government, and the decay of the
priestly office. When this happens, the situation begins to
change. Human life must seek expression in one direction if it
may not in another; and if the predatory outlet fails, relief is
sought elsewhere.
      As indicated above, the exemption from pecuniary stress has
been carried farther in the case of the leisure-class women of
the advanced industrial communities than in that of any other
considerable group of persons. The women may therefore be
expected to show a more pronounced reversion to a non-invidious
temperament than the men. But there is also among men of the
leisure class a perceptible increase in the range and scope of
activities that proceed from aptitudes which are not to be
classed as self-regarding, and the end of which is not an
invidious distinction. So, for instance, the greater number of
men who have to do with industry in the way of pecuniarily
managing an enterprise take some interest and some pride in
seeing that the work is well done and is industrially effective,
and this even apart from the profit which may result from any
improvement of this kind. The efforts of commercial clubs and
manufacturers' organizations in this direction of non-invidious
advancement of industrial efficiency are also well know.
     The tendency to some other than an invidious purpose in life
has worked out in a multitude of organizations, the purpose of
which is some work of charity or of social amelioration. These
organizations are often of a quasi-religious or pseudo-religious
character, and are participated in by both men and women.
Examples will present themselves in abundance on reflection, but
for the purpose of indicating the range of the propensities in
question and of characterizing them, some of the more obvious
concrete cases may be cited. Such, for instance, are the
agitation for temperance and similar social reforms, for prison
reform, for the spread of education, for the suppression of vice,
and for the avoidance of war by arbitration, disarmament, or
other means; such are, in some measure, university settlements,
neighborhood guilds, the various organizations typified by the
Young Men's Christian Association and Young People's Society for
Christian Endeavor, sewing-clubs, art clubs, and even commercial
clubs; such are also, in some slight measure, the pecuniary
foundations of semi-public establishments for charity, education,
or amusement, whether they are endowed by wealthy individuals or
by contributions collected from persons of smaller means -- in so
far as these establishments are not of a religious character.
      It is of course not intended to say that these efforts
proceed entirely from other motives than those of a
selfregarding kind. What can be claimed is that other motives
are present in the common run of cases, and that the perceptibly
greater prevalence of effort of this kind under the circumstances
of the modern industrial life than under the unbroken regime of
the principle of status, indicates the presence in modern life of
an effective scepticism with respect to the full legitimacy of an
emulative scheme of life. It is a matter of sufficient notoriety
to have become a commonplace jest that extraneous motives are
commonly present among the incentives to this class of work --
motives of a self-regarding kind, and especially the motive of an
invidious distinction. To such an extent is this true, that many
ostensible works of disinterested public spirit are no doubt
initiated and carried on with a view primarily to the enhance
repute or even to the pecuniary gain, of their promoters. In the
case of some considerable groups of organizations or
establishments of this kind the invidious motive is apparently
the dominant motive both with the initiators of the work and with
their supporters. This last remark would hold true especially
with respect to such works as lend distinction to their doer
through large and conspicuous expenditure; as, for example, the
foundation of a university or of a public library or museum; but
it is also, and perhaps equally, true  of the more commonplace
work of participation in such organizations. These serve to
authenticate the pecuniary reputability of their members, as well
as gratefully to keep them in mind of their superior status by
pointing the contrast between themselves and the lower-lying
humanity in whom the work of amelioration is to be wrought; as,
for example, the university settlement, which now has some vogue.
But after all allowances and deductions have been made, there is
left some remainder of motives of a non-emulative kind. The fact
itself that distinction or a decent good fame is sought by this
method is evidence of a prevalent sense of the legitimacy , and
of the presumptive effectual presence, of a non-emulative,
non-invidious interest, as a consistent factor in the habits of
thought of modern communities.
     In all this latter-day range of leisure-class activities
that proceed on the basis of a non-invidious and non-religious
interest, it is to be noted that the women participate more
actively and more persistently than the men -- except, of course,
in the case of such works as require a large expenditure of
means. The dependent pecuniary position of the women disables
them for work requiring large expenditure. As regards the general
range of ameliorative work, the members of the priesthood or
clergy of the less naively devout sects, or the secularized
denominations, are associated with the class of women. This is as
the theory would have it. In other economic relations, also, this
clergy stands in a somewhat equivocal position between the class
of women and that of the men engaged in economic pursuits. By
tradition and by the prevalent sense of the proprieties, both the
clergy and the women of the well-to-do classes are placed in the
position of a vicarious leisure class; with both classes the
characteristic relation which goes to form the habits of thought
of the class is a relation of subservience -- that is to say, an
economic relation conceived in personal terms; in both classes
there is consequently perceptible a special proneness to construe
phenomena in terms of personal relation rather than of causal
sequence; both classes are so inhibited by the canons of decency
from the ceremonially unclean processes of the lucrative or
productive occupations as to make participation in the industrial
life process of today a moral impossibility for them. The result
of this ceremonial exclusion from productive effort of the vulgar
sort is to draft a relatively large share of the energies of the
modern feminine and priestly classes into the service of other
interests than the self-regarding one. The code leaves no
alternative direction in which the impulse to purposeful action
may find expression. The effect of a consistent inhibition on
industrially useful activity in the case of the leisure-class
women shows itself in a restless assertion of the impulse to
workmanship in other directions than that of business activity.
     As has been noticed already, the everyday life of the
well-to-do women and the clergy contains a larger element of
status than that of the average of the men, especially than that
of the men engaged in the modern industrial occupations proper.
Hence the devout attitude survives in a better state of
preservation among these classes than among the common run of men
in the modern communities. Hence an appreciable share of the
energy which seeks expression in a non-lucrative employment among
these members of the vicarious leisure classes may be expected to
eventuate in devout observances and works of piety. Hence, in
part, the excess of the devout proclivity in women, spoken of in
the last chapter. But it is more to the present point to note the
effect of this proclivity in shaping the action and coloring the
purposes of the non-lucrative movements and organizations here
under discussion. Where this devout coloring is present it lowers
the immediate efficiency of the organizations for any economic
end to which their efforts may be directed. Many organizations,
charitable and ameliorative, divide their attention between the
devotional and the secular well-being of the people whose
interests they aim to further. It can scarcely he doubted that if
they were to give an equally serious attention and effort
undividedly to the secular interests of these people, the
immediate economic value of their work should be appreciably
higher than it is. It might of course similarly be said, if this
were the place to say it, that the immediate efficiency of these
works of amelioration for the devout might be greater if it were
not hampered with the secular motives and aims which are usually
     Some deduction is to be made from the economic value of this
class of non-invidious enterprise, on account of the intrusion of
the devotional interest. But there are also deductions to be made
on account of the presence of other alien motives which more or
less broadly traverse the economic trend of this non-emulative
expression of the instinct of workmanship. To such an extent is
this seen to be true on a closer scrutiny, that, when all is
told, it may even appear that this general class of enterprises
is of an altogether dubious economic value -- as measured in
terms of the fullness or facility of life of the individuals or
classes to whose amelioration the enterprise is directed. For
instance, many of the efforts now in reputable vogue for the
amelioration of the indigent population of large cities are of
the nature, in great part, of a mission of culture. It is by this
means sought to accelerate the rate of speed at which given
elements of the upper-class culture find acceptance in the
everyday scheme of life of the lower classes. The solicitude of
"settlements," for example, is in part directed to enhance the
industrial efficiency of the poor and to teach them the more
adequate utilization of the means at hand; but it is also no less
consistently directed to the inculcation, by precept and example,
of certain punctilios of upper-class propriety in manners and
customs. The economic substance of these proprieties will
commonly be found on scrutiny to be a conspicuous waste of time
and goods. Those good people who go out to humanize the poor are
commonly, and advisedly, extremely scrupulous and silently
insistent in matters of decorum and the decencies of life. They
are commonly persons of an exemplary life and gifted with a
tenacious insistence on ceremonial cleanness in the various items
of their daily consumption. The cultural or civilizing efficacy
of this inculcation of correct habits of thought with respect to
the consumption of time and commodities is scarcely to be
overrated; nor is its economic value to the individual who
acquires these higher and more reputable ideals inconsiderable.
Under the circumstances of the existing pecuniary culture, the
reputability, and consequently the success, of the individual is
in great measure dependent on his proficiency in demeanor and
methods of consumption that argue habitual waste of time and
goods. But as regards the ulterior economic bearing of this
training in worthier methods of life, it is to be said that the
effect wrought is in large part a substitution of costlier or
less efficient methods of accomplishing the same material
results, in relations where the material result is the fact of
substantial economic value. The propaganda of culture is in great
part an inculcation of new tastes, or rather of a new schedule of
proprieties, which have been adapted to the upper-class scheme of
life under the guidance of the leisure-class formulation of the
principles of status and pecuniary decency. This new schedule of
proprieties is intruded into the lower-class scheme of life from
the code elaborated by an element of the population whose life
lies outside the industrial process; and this intrusive schedule
can scarcely be expected to fit the exigencies of life for these
lower classes more adequately than the schedule already in vogue
among them, and especially not more adequately than the schedule
which they are themselves working out under the stress of modern
industrial life.
     All this of course does not question the fact that the
prOprieties of the substituted schedule are more decorous than
those which they displace. The doubt which presents itself is
simply a doubt as to the economic expediency of this work of
regeneration -- that is to say, the economic expediency in that
immediate and material bearing in which the effects of the change
can be ascertained with some degree of confidence, and as viewed
from the standpoint not of the individual but of the facility of
life of the collectivity. For an appreciation of the economic
expediency of these enterprises of amelioration, therefore, their
effective work is scarcely to be taken at its face value, even
where the aim of the enterprise is primarily an economic one and
where the interest on which it proceeds is in no sense
self-regarding or invidious. The economic reform wrought is
largely of the nature of a permutation in the methods of
conspicuous waste.
     But something further is to be said with respect to the
character of the disinterested motives and canons of procedure in
all work of this class that is affected by the habits of thought
characteristic of the pecuniary culture; and this further
consideration may lead to a further qualification of the
conclusions already reached. As has been seen in an earlier
chapter, the canons of reputability or decency under the
pecuniary culture insist on habitual futility of effort as the
mark of a pecuniarily blameless life. There results not only a
habit of disesteem of useful occupations, but there results also
what is of more decisive consequence in guiding the action of any
organized body of people that lays claim to social good repute.
There is a tradition which requires that one should not be
vulgarly familiar with any of the processes or details that have
to do with the material necessities of life. One may
meritoriously show a quantitative interest in the well-being of
the vulgar, through subscriptions or through work on managing
committees and the like. One may, perhaps even more
meritoriously, show solicitude in general and in detail for the
cultural welfare of the vulgar, in the way of contrivances for
elevating their tastes and affording them opportunities for
spiritual amelioration. But one should not betray an intimate
knowledge of the material circumstances of vulgar life, or of the
habits of thought of the vulgar classes, such as would
effectually direct the efforts of these organizations to a
materially useful end. This reluctance to avow an unduly intimate
knowledge of the lower-class conditions of life in detail of
course prevails in very different degrees in different
individuals; but there is commonly enough of it present
collectively in any organization of the kind in question
profoundly to influence its course of action. By its cumulative
action in shaping the usage and precedents of any such body, this
shrinking from an imputation of unseemly familiarity with vulgar
life tends gradually to set aside the initial motives of the
enterprise, in favor of certain guiding principles of good
repute, ultimately reducible to terms of pecuniary merit. So that
in an organization of long standing the initial motive of
furthering the facility of life in these classes comes gradually
to be an ostensible motive only, and the vulgarly effective work
of the organization tends to obsolescence.
     What is true of the efficiency of organizations for
non-invidious work in this respect is true also as regards the
work of individuals proceeding on the same motives; though it
perhaps holds true with more qualification for individuals than
for organized enterprises. The habit of gauging merit by the
leisure-class canons of wasteful expenditure and unfamiliarity
with vulgar life, whether on the side of production or of
consumption, is necessarily strong in the individuals who aspire
to do some work of public utility. And if the individual should
forget his station and turn his efforts to vulgar effectiveness,
the common sense of the community-the sense of pecuniary decency
-- would presently reject his work and set him right. An example
of this is seen in the administration of bequests made by
public-spirited men for the single purpose (at least ostensibly)
of furthering the facility of human life in some particular
respect. The objects for which bequests of this class are most
frequently made at present are most frequently made at present
are schools, libraries, hospitals, and asylums for the infirm or
unfortunate. The avowed purpose of the donor in these cases is
the amelioration of human life in the particular respect which is
named in the bequest; but it will be found an invariable rule
that in the execution of the work not a little of other motives,
frequenCy incompatible with the initial motive, is present and
determines the particular disposition eventually made of a good
share of the means which have been set apart by the bequest.
Certain funds, for instance, may have been set apart as a
foundation for a foundling asylum or a retreat for invalids. The
diversion of expenditure to honorific waste in such cases is not
uncommon enough to cause surprise or even to raise a smile. An
appreciable share of the funds is spent in the construction of an
edifice faced with some aesthetically objectionable but expensive
stone, covered with grotesque and incongruous details, and
designed, in its battlemented walls and turrets and its massive
portals and strategic approaches, to suggest certain barbaric
methods of warfare. The interior of the structure shows the same
pervasive guidance of the canons of conspicuous waste and
predatory exploit. The windows, for instance, to go no farther
into detail, are placed with a view to impress their pecuniary
excellence upon the chance beholder from the outside, rather than
with a view to effectiveness for their ostensible end in the
convenience or comfort of the beneficiaries within; and the
detail of interior arrangement is required to conform itself as
best it may to this alien but imperious requirement of pecuniary
     In all this, of course, it is not to he presumed that the
donor would have found fault, or that he would have done
otherwise if he had taken control in person; it appears that in
those cases where such a personal direction is exercised -- where
the enterprise is conducted by direct expenditure and
superintendence instead of by bequest -- the aims and methods of
management are not different in this respect. Nor would the
beneficiaries, or the outside observers whose ease or vanity are
not immediately touched, be pleased with a different disposition
of the funds. It would suit no one to have the enterprise
conducted with a view directly to the most economical and
effective use of the means at hand for the initial, material end
of the foundation. All concerned, whether their interest is
immediate and self-regarding, or contemplative only, agree that
some considerable share of the expenditure should go to the
higher or spiritual needs derived from the habit of an invidious
comparison in predatory exploit and pecuniary waste. But this
only goes to say that the canons of emulative and pecuniary
reputability so far pervade the common sense of the community as
to permit no escape or evasion, even in the case of an enterprise
which ostensibly proceeds entirely on the basis of a
non-invidious interest.
     It may even be that the enterprise owes its honorific
virtue, as a means of enhancing the donor's good repute, to the
imputed presence of this non-invidious motive; but that does not
hinder the invidious interest from guiding the expenditure. The
effectual presence of motives of an emulative or invidious origin
in non-emulative works of this kind might be shown at length and
with detail, in any one of the classes of enterprise spoken of
above. Where these honorific details occur, in such cases, they
commonly masquerade under designations that belong in the field
of the aesthetic, ethical or economic interest. These special
motives, derived from the standards and canons of the pecuniary
culture, act surreptitiously to divert effort of a non-invidious
kind from effective service, without disturbing the agent's sense
of good intention or obtruding upon his consciousness the
substantial futility of his work. Their effect might be traced
through the entire range of that schedule of non-invidious,
meliorative enterprise that is so considerable a feature, and
especially so conspicuous a feature, in the overt scheme of life
of the well-to-do. But the theoretical bearing is perhaps clear
enough and may require no further illustration; especially as
some detailed attention will be given to one of these lines of
enterprise -- the establishments for the higher learning -- in
another connection.
     Under the circumstances of the sheltered situation in which
the leisure class is placed there seems, therefore, to be
something of a reversion to the range of non-invidious impulses
that characterizes the ante-predatory savage culture. The
reversion comprises both the sense of workmanship and the
proclivity to indolence and good-fellowship. But in the modern
scheme of life canons of conduct based on pecuniary or invidious
merit stand in the way of a free exercise of these impulses; and
the dominant presence of these canons of conduct goes far to
divert such efforts as are made on the basis of the non-invidious
interest to the service of that invidious interest on which the
pecuniary culture rests. The canons of pecuniary decency are
reducible for the present purpose to the principles of waste,
futility, and ferocity. The requirements of decency are
imperiously present in meliorative enterprise as in other lines
of conduct, and exercise a selective surveillance over the
details of conduct and management in any enterprise. By guiding
and adapting the method in detail, these canons of decency go far
to make all non-invidious aspiration or effort nugatory. The
pervasive, impersonal, un-eager principle of futility is at hand
from day to day and works obstructively to hinder the effectual
expression of so much of the surviving ante-predatory aptitudes
as is to be classed under the instinct of workmanship; but its
presence does not preclude the transmission of those aptitudes or
the continued recurrence of an impulse to find expression for
     In the later and farther development of the pecuniary
culture, the requirement of withdrawal from the industrial
process in order to avoid social odium is carried so far as to
comprise abstention from the emulative employments. At this
advanced stage the pecuniary culture negatively favors the
assertion of the non-invidious propensities by relaxing the
stress laid on the merit of emulative, predatory , or pecuniary
occupations, as compared with those of an industrial or
productive kind. As was noticed above, the requirement of such
withdrawal from all employment that is of human use applies more
rigorously to the upper-class women than to any other class,
unless the priesthood of certain cults might be cited as an
exception, perhaps more apparent than real, to this rule. The
reason for the more extreme insistence on a futile life for this
class of women than for the men of the same pecuniary and social
grade lies in their being not only an upper-grade leisure class
but also at the same time a vicarious leisure class. There is in
their case a double ground for a consistent withdrawal from
useful effort.
      It has been well and repeatedly said by popular writers and
speakers who reflect the common sense of intelligent people on
questions of social structure and function that the position of
woman in any community is the most striking index of the level of
culture attained by the community, and it might be added, by any
given class in the community. This remark is perhaps truer as
regards the stage of economic development than as regards
development in any other respect. At the same time the position
assigned to the woman in the accepted scheme of life, in any
community or under any culture, is in a very great degree an
expression of traditions which have been shaped by the
circumstances of an earlier phase of development, and which have
been but partially adapted to the existing economic
circumstances, or to the existing exigencies of temperament and
habits of mind by which the women living under this modern
economic situation are actuated.
     The fact has already been remarked upon incidentally in the
course of the discussion of the growth of economic institutions
generally, and in particular in speaking of vicarious leisure and
of dress, that the position of women in the modern economic
scheme is more widely and more consistently at variance with the
promptings of the instinct of workmanship than is the position of
the men of the same classes. It is also apparently true that the
woman's temperament includes a larger share of this instinct that
approves peace and disapproves futility. It is therefore not a
fortuitous circumstance that the women of modern industrial
communities show a livelier sense of the discrepancy between the
accepted scheme of life and the exigencies of the economic
     The several phases of the "woman question" have brought out
in intelligible form the extent to which the life of women in
modern society, and in the polite circles especially, is
regulated by a body of common sense formulated under the economic
circumstances of an earlier phase of development. It is still
felt that woman's life, in its civil, economic, and social
bearing, is essentially and normally a vicarious life, the merit
or demerit of which is, in the nature of things, to be imputed to
some other individual who stands in some relation of ownership or
tutelage to the woman. So, for instance, any action on the part
of a woman which traverses an injunction of the accepted schedule
of proprieties is felt to reflect immediately upon the honor of
the man whose woman she is. There may of course be some sense of
incongruity in the mind of any one passing an opinion of this
kind on the woman's frailty or perversity; but the common-sense
judgment of the community in such matters is, after all,
delivered without much hesitation, and few men would question the
legitimacy of their sense of an outraged tutelage in any case
that might arise. On the other hand, relatively little discredit
attaches to a woman through the evil deeds of the man with whom
her life is associated.
      The good and beautiful scheme of life, then -- that is to
say the scheme to which we are habituated -- assigns to the woman
a "sphere" ancillary to the activity of the man; and it is felt
that any departure from the traditions of her assigned round of
duties is unwomanly. If the question is as to civil rights or the
suffrage, our common sense in the matter -- that is to say the
logical deliverance of our general scheme of life upon the point
in question -- says that the woman should be represented in the
body politic and before the law, not immediately in her own
person, but through the mediation of the head of the household to
which she belongs. It is unfeminine in her to aspire to a
self-directing, self-centered life; and our common sense tells us
that her direct participation in the affairs of the community,
civil or industrial, is a menace to that social order which
expresses our habits of thought as they have been formed under
the guidance of the traditions of the pecuniary culture. "All
this fume and froth of 'emancipating woman from the slavery of
man' and so on, is, to use the chaste and expressive language of
Elizabeth Cady Stanton inversely, 'utter rot.' The social
relations of the sexes are fixed by nature. Our entire
civilization -- that is whatever is good in it -- is based on the
home." The "home" is the household with a male head. This view,
but commonly expressed even more chastely, is the prevailing view
of the woman's status, not only among the common run of the men
of civilized communities, but among the women as well. Women have
a very alert sense of what the scheme of proprieties requires,
and while it is true that many of them are ill at ease under the
details which the code imposes, there are few who do not
recognize that the existing moral order, of necessity and by the
divine right of prescription, places the woman in a position
ancillary to the man. In the last analysis, according to her own
sense of what is good and beautiful, the woman's life is, and in
theory must be, an expression of the man's life at the second
     But in spite of this pervading sense of what is the good and
natural place for the woman, there is also perceptible an
incipient development of sentiment to the effect that this whole
arrangement of tutelage and vicarious life and imputation of
merit and demerit is somehow a mistake. Or, at least, that even
if it may be a natural growth and a good arrangement in its time
and place, and in spite of its patent aesthetic value, still it
does not adequately serve the more everyday ends of life in a
modern industrial community. Even that large and substantial body
of well-bred, upper and middle-class women to whose
dispassionate, matronly sense of the traditional proprieties this
relation of status commends itself as fundamentally and eternally
right-even these, whose attitude is conservative, commonly find
some slight discrepancy in detail between things as they are and
things as they should be in this respect. But that less
manageable body of modern women who, by force of youth,
education, or temperament, are in some degree out of touch with
the traditions of status received from the barbarian culture, and
in whom there is, perhaps, an undue reversion to the impulse of
self-expression and workmanship -- these are touched with a sense
of grievance too vivid to leave them at rest.
     In this "New-Woman" movement -- as these blind and
incoherent efforts to rehabilitate the woman's pre-glacial
standing have been named -- there are at least two elements
discernible, both of which are of an economic character. These
two elements or motives are expressed by the double watchword,
"Emancipation" and "Work." Each of these words is recognized to
stand for something in the way of a wide-spread sense of
grievance. The prevalence of the sentiment is recognized even by
people who do not see that there is any real ground for a
grievance in the situation as it stands today. It is among the
women of the well-to-do classes, in the communities which are
farthest advanced in industrial development, that this sense of a
grievance to be redressed is most alive and finds most frequent
expression. That is to say, in other words, there is a demand,
more or less serious, for emancipation from all relation of
status, tutelage, or vicarious life; and the revulsion asserts
itself especially among the class of women upon whom the scheme
of life handed down from the regime of status imposes with least
litigation a vicarious life, and in those communities whose
economic development has departed farthest from the circumstances
to which this traditional scheme is adapted. The demand comes
from that portion of womankind which is excluded by the canons of
good repute from all effectual work, and which is closely
reserved for a life of leisure and conspicuous consumption.
     More than one critic of this new-woman movement has
misapprehended its motive. The case of the American "new woman"
has lately been summed up with some warmth by a popular observer
of social phenomena: "She is petted by her husband, the most
devoted and hard-working of husbands in the world. ... She is the
superior of her husband in education, and in almost every
respect. She is surrounded by the most numerous and delicate
attentions. Yet she is not satisfied. ... The Anglo-Saxon 'new
woman' is the most ridiculous production of modern times, and
destined to be the most ghastly failure of the century." Apart
from the deprecation -- perhaps well placed -- which is contained
in this presentment, it adds nothing but obscurity to the woman
question. The grievance of the new woman is made up of those
things which this typical characterization of the movement urges
as reasons why she should be content. She is petted, and is
permitted, or even required, to consume largely and conspicuously
-- vicariously for her husband or other natural guardian. She is
exempted, or debarred, from vulgarly useful employment -- in
order to perform leisure vicariously for the good repute of her
natural (pecuniary) guardian. These offices are the conventional
marks of the un-free, at the same time that they are incompatible
with the human impulse to purposeful activity. But the woman is
endowed with her share-which there is reason to believe is more
than an even share -- of the instinct of workmanship, to which
futility of life or of expenditure is obnoxious. She must unfold
her life activity in response to the direct, unmediated stimuli
of the economic environment with which she is in contact. The
impulse is perhaps stronger upon the woman than upon the man to
live her own life in her own way and to enter the industrial
process of the community at something nearer than the second
     So long as the woman's place is consistently that of a
drudge, she is, in the average of cases, fairly contented with
her lot. She not only has something tangible and purposeful to
do, but she has also no time or thought to spare for a rebellious
assertion of such human propensity to self-direction as she has
inherited. And after the stage of universal female drudgery is
passed, and a vicarious leisure without strenuous application
becomes the accredited employment of the women of the well-to-do
classes, the prescriptive force of the canon of pecuniary
decency, which requires the observance of ceremonial futility on
their part, will long preserve high-minded women from any
sentimental leaning to self-direction and a "sphere of
usefulness." This is especially true during the earlier phases of
the pecuniary culture, while the leisure of the leisure class is
still in great measure a predatory activity, an active assertion
of mastery in which there is enough of tangible purpose of an
invidious kind to admit of its being taken seriously as an
employment to which one may without shame put one's hand. This
condition of things has obviously lasted well down into the
present in some communities. It continues to hold to a different
extent for different individuals, varying with the vividness of
the sense of status and with the feebleness of the impulse to
workmanship with which the individual is endowed. But where the
economic structure of the community has so far outgrown the
scheme of life based on status that the relation of personal
subservience is no longer felt to be the sole "natural" human
relation; there the ancient habit of purposeful activity will
begin to assert itself in the less conformable individuals
against the more recent, relatively superficial, relatively
ephemeral habits and views which the predatory and the pecuniary
culture have contributed to our scheme of life. These habits and
views begin to lose their coercive force for the community or the
class in question so soon as the habit of mind and the views of
life due to the predatory and the quasi-peaceable discipline
cease to be in fairly close accord with the later-developed
economic situation. This is evident in the case of the
industrious classes of modern communities; for them the
leisure-class scheme of life has lost much of its binding force,
especially as regards the element of status. But it is also
visibly being verified in the case of the upper classes, though
not in the same manner.
     The habits derived from the predatory and quasi-peaceable
culture are relatively ephemeral variants of certain underlying
propensities and mental characteristics of the race; which it
owes to the protracted discipline of the earlier,
proto-anthropoid cultural stage of peaceable, relatively
undifferentiated economic life carried on in contact with a
relatively simple and invariable material environment. When the
habits superinduced by the emulative method of life have ceased
to enjoy the section of existing economic exigencies, a process
of disintegration sets in whereby the habits of thought of more
recent growth and of a less generic character to some extent
yield the ground before the more ancient and more pervading
spiritual characteristics of the race.
     In a sense, then, the new-woman movement marks a reversion
to a more generic type of human character, or to a less
differentiated expression of human nature. It is a type of human
nature which is to be characterized as proto-anthropoid, and, as
regards the substance if not the form of its dominant traits, it
belongs to a cultural stage that may be classed as possibly
sub-human. The particular movement or evolutional feature in
question of course shares this characterization with the rest of
the later social development, in so far as this social
development shows evidence of a reversion to the spiritual
attitude that characterizes the earlier, undifferentiated stage
of economic revolution. Such evidence of a general tendency to
reversion from the dominance of the invidious interest is not
entirely wanting, although it is neither plentiful nor
unquestionably convincing. The general decay of the sense of
status in modern industrial communities goes some way as evidence
in this direction; and the perceptible return to a disapproval of
futility in human life, and a disapproval of such activities as
serve only the individual gain at the cost of the collectivity or
at the cost of other social groups, is evidence to a like effect.
There is a perceptible tendency to deprecate the infliction of
pain, as well as to discredit all marauding enterprises, even
where these expressions of the invidious interest do not tangibly
work to the material detriment of the community or of the
individual who passes an opinion on them. It may even be said
that in the modern industrial communities the average,
dispassionate sense of men says that the ideal character is a
character which makes for peace, good-will, and economic
efficiency, rather than for a life of self-seeking, force, fraud,
and mastery.
     The influence of the leisure class is not consistently for
or against the rehabilitation of this proto-anthropoid human
nature. So far as concerns the chance of survival of individuals
endowed with an exceptionally large share of the primitive
traits, the sheltered position of the class favors its members
directly by withdrawing them from the pecuniary struggle; but
indirectly, through the leisure-class canons of conspicuous waste
of goods and effort, the institution of a leisure class lessens
the chance of survival of such individuals in the entire body of
the population. The decent requirements of waste absorb the
surplus energy of the population in an invidious struggle and
leave no margin for the non-invidious expression of life. The
remoter, less tangible, spiritual effects of the discipline of
decency go in the same direction and work perhaps more
effectually to the same end. The canons of decent life are an
elaboration of the principle of invidious comparison, and they
accordingly act consistently to inhibit all non-invidious effort
and to inculcate the self-regarding attitude.