The Theory of the Leisure Class
by Thorstein Veblen

Chapter Nine
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

The Conservation of Archaic Traits

   The institution of a leisure class has an effect not only upon
social structure but also upon the individual character of the
members of society. So soon as a given proclivity or a given
point of view has won acceptance as an authoritative standard or
norm of life it will react upon the character of the members of
the society which has accepted it as a norm. It will to some
extent shape their habits of thought and will exercise a
selective surveillance over the development of men's aptitudes
and inclinations. This effect is wrought partly by a coercive,
educational adaptation of the habits of all individuals, partly
by a selective elimination of the unfit individuals and lines of
descent. Such human material as does not lend itself to the
methods of life imposed by the accepted scheme suffers more or
less elimination as well as repression. The principles of
pecuniary emulation and of industrial exemption have in this way
been erected into canons of life, and have become coercive
factors of some importance in the situation to which men have to
adapt themselves.
     These two broad principles of conspicuous waste and
industrial exemption affect the cultural development both by
guiding men's habits of thought, and so controlling the growth of
institutions, and by selectively conserving certain traits of
human nature that conduce to facility of life under the
leisure-class scheme, and so controlling the effective temper of
the community. The proximate tendency of the institution of a
leisure class in shaping human character runs in the direction of
spiritual survival and reversion. Its effect upon the temper of a
community is of the nature of an arrested spiritual development.
In the later culture especially, the institution has, on the
whole, a conservative trend. This proposition is familiar enough
in substance, but it may to many have the appearance of novelty
in its present application. Therefore a summary review of its
logical grounds may not be uncalled for, even at the risk of some
tedious repetition and formulation of commonplaces.
     Social evolution is a process of selective adaptation of
temperament and habits of thought under the stress of the
circumstances of associated life. The adaptation of habits of
thought is the growth of institutions. But along with the growth
of institutions has gone a change of a more substantial
character. Not only have the habits of men changed with the
changing exigencies of the situation, but these changing
exigencies have also brought about a correlative change in human
nature. The human material of society itself varies with the
changing conditions of life. This variation of human nature is
held by the later ethnologists to be a process of selection
between several relatively stable and persistent ethnic types or
ethnic elements. Men tend to revert or to breed true, more or
less closely, to one or another of certain types of human nature
that have in their main features been fixed in approximate
conformity to a situation in the past which differed from the
situation of today. There are several of these relatively stable
ethnic types of mankind comprised in the populations of the
Western culture. These ethnic types survive in the race
inheritance today, not as rigid and invariable moulds, each of a
single precise and specific pattern, but in the form of a greater
or smaller number of variants. Some variation of the ethnic types
has resulted under the protracted selective process to which the
several types and their hybrids have been subjected during the
prehistoric and historic growth of culture.
     This necessary variation of the types themselves, due to a
selective process of considerable duration and of a consistent
trend, has not been sufficiently noticed by the writers who have
discussed ethnic survival. The argument is here concerned with
two main divergent variants of human nature resulting from this,
relatively late, selective adaptation of the ethnic types
comprised in the Western culture; the point of interest being the
probable effect of the situation of today in furthering variation
along one or the other of these two divergent lines.
     The ethnological position may be briefly summed up; and in
order to avoid any but the most indispensable detail the schedule
of types and variants and the scheme of reversion and survival in
which they are concerned are here presented with a diagrammatic
meagerness and simplicity which would not be admissible for any
other purpose. The man of our industrial communities tends to
breed true to one or the other of three main ethic types; the
dolichocephalic-blond, the brachycephalic-brunette, and the
Mediterranean -- disregarding minor and outlying elements of our
culture. But within each of these main ethnic types the reversion
tends to one or the other of at least two main directions of
variation; the peaceable or antepredatory variant and the
predatory variant. The former of these two characteristic
variants is nearer to the generic type in each case, being the
reversional representative of its type as it stood at the
earliest stage of associated life of which there is available
evidence, either archaeological or psychological. This variant is
taken to represent the ancestors of existing civilized man at the
peaceable, savage phase of life which preceded the predatory
culture, the regime of status, and the growth of pecuniary
emulation. The second or predatory variant of the types is taken
to be a survival of a more recent modification of the main ethnic
types and their hybrids -- of these types as they were modified,
mainly by a selective adaptation, under the discipline of the
predatory culture and the latter emulative culture of the
quasi-peaceable stage, or the pecuniary culture proper.
     Under the recognized laws of heredity there may be a
survival from a more or less remote past phase. In the ordinary,
average, or normal case, if the type has varied, the traits of
the type are transmitted approximately as they have stood in the
recent past -- which may be called the hereditary present. For
the purpose in hand this hereditary present is represented by the
later predatory and the quasi-peaceable culture.
     It is to the variant of human nature which is characteristic
of this recent -- hereditarily still existing -- predatory or
quasipredatory culture that the modern civilized man tends to
breed true in the common run of cases. This proposition requires
some qualification so far as concerns the descendants of the
servile or repressed classes of barbarian times, but the
qualification necessary is probably not so great as might at
first thought appear. Taking the population as a whole, this
predatory, emulative variant does not seem to have attained a
high degree of consistency or stability. That is to say, the
human nature inherited by modern Occidental man is not nearly
uniform in respect of the range or the relative strength of the
various aptitudes and propensities which go to make it up. The
man of the hereditary present is slightly archaic as judged for
the purposes of the latest exigencies of associated life. And the
type to which the modern man chiefly tends to revert under the
law of variation is a somewhat more archaic human nature. On the
other hand, to judge by the reversional traits which show
themselves in individuals that vary from the prevailing predatory
style of temperament, the ante-predatory variant seems to have a
greater stability and greater symmetry in the distribution or
relative force of its temperamental elements.
     This divergence of inherited human nature, as between an
earlier and a later variant of the ethnic type to which the
individual tends to breed true, is traversed and obscured by a
similar divergence between the two or three main ethnic types
that go to make up the Occidental populations. The individuals in
these communities are conceived to be, in virtually every
instance, hybrids of the prevailing ethnic elements combined in
the most varied proportions; with the result that they tend to
take back to one or the other of the component ethnic types.
These ethnic types differ in temperament in a way somewhat
similar to the difference between the predatory and the
antepredatory variants of the types; the dolicho-blond type
showing more of the characteristics of the predatory temperament
-- or at least more of the violent disposition -- than the
brachycephalic-brunette type, and especially more than the
Mediterranean. When the growth of institutions or of the
effective sentiment of a given community shows a divergence from
the predatory human nature, therefore, it is impossible to say
with certainty that such a divergence indicates a reversion to
the ante-predatory variant. It may be due to an increasing
dominance of the one or the other of the "lower" ethnic elements
in the population. Still, although the evidence is not as
conclusive as might be desired, there are indications that the
variations in the effective temperament of modern communities is
not altogether due to a selection between stable ethnic types. It
seems to be to some appreciable extent a selection between the
predatory and the peaceable variants of the several types.
     This conception of contemporary human evolution is not
indispensable to the discussion. The general conclusions reached
by the use of these concepts of selective adaptation would remain
substantially true if the earlier, Darwinian and Spencerian,
terms and concepts were substituted. Under the circumstances,
some latitude may be admissible in the use of terms. The word
"type" is used loosely, to denote variations of temperament which
the ethnologists would perhaps recognize only as trivial variants
of the type rather than as distinct ethnic types. Wherever a
closer discrimination seems essential to the argument, the effort
to make such a closer discrimination will be evident from the
     The ethnic types of today, then, are variants of the
primitive racial types. They have suffered some alteration, and
have attained some degree of fixity in their altered form, under
the discipline of the barbarian culture. The man of the
hereditary present is the barbarian variant, servile or
aristocratic, of the ethnic elements that constitute him. But
this barbarian variant has not attained the highest degree of
homogeneity or of stability. The barbarian culture -- the
predatory and quasi-peaceable cultural stages -- though of great
absolute duration, has been neither protracted enough nor
invariable enough in character to give an extreme fixity of type.
Variations from the barbarian human nature occur with some
frequency, and these cases of variation are becoming more
noticeable today, because the conditions of modern life no longer
act consistently to repress departures from the barbarian normal.
The predatory temperament does not lead itself to all the
purposes of modern life, and more especially not to modern
     Departures from the human nature of the hereditary present
are most frequently of the nature of reversions to an earlier
variant of the type. This earlier variant is represented by the
temperament which characterizes the primitive phase of peaceable
savagery. The circumstances of life and the ends of effort that
prevailed before the advent of the barbarian culture, shaped
human nature and fixed it as regards certain fundamental traits.
And it is to these ancient, generic features that modern men are
prone to take back in case of variation from the human nature of
the hereditary present. The conditions under which men lived in
the most primitive stages of associated life that can properly be
called human, seem to have been of a peaceful kind; and the
character -- the temperament and spiritual attitude of men under
these early conditions or environment and institutions seems to
have been of a peaceful and unaggressive, not to say an indolent,
cast. For the immediate purpose this peaceable cultural stage may
be taken to mark the initial phase of social development. So far
as concerns the present argument, the dominant spiritual feature
of this presumptive initial phase of culture seems to have been
an unreflecting, unformulated sense of group solidarity, largely
expressing itself in a complacent, but by no means strenuous,
sympathy with all facility of human life, and an uneasy revulsion
against apprehended inhibition or futility of life. Through its
ubiquitous presence in the habits of thought of the
ante-predatory savage man, this pervading but uneager sense of
the generically useful seems to have exercised an appreciable
constraining force upon his life and upon the manner of his
habitual contact with other members of the group.
     The traces of this initial, undifferentiated peaceable phase
of culture seem faint and doubtful if we look merely to such
categorical evidence of its existence as is afforded by usages
and views in vogue within the historical present, whether in
civilized or in rude communities; but less dubious evidence of
its existence is to be found in psychological survivals, in the
way of persistent and pervading traits of human character. These
traits survive perhaps in an especial degree among those ethic
elements which were crowded into the background during the
predatory culture. Traits that were suited to the earlier habits
of life then became relatively useless in the individual struggle
for existence. And those elements of the population, or those
ethnic groups, which were by temperament less fitted to the
predatory life were repressed and pushed into the background.
     On the transition to the predatory culture the character of
the struggle for existence changed in some degree from a struggle
of the group against a non-human environment to a struggle
against a human environment. This change was accompanied by an
increasing antagonism and consciousness of antagonism between the
individual members of the group. The conditions of success within
the group, as well as the conditions of the survival of the
group, changed in some measure; and the dominant spiritual
attitude for the group gradually changed, and brought a different
range of aptitudes and propensities into the position of
legitimate dominance in the accepted scheme of life. Among these
archaic traits that are to be regarded as survivals from the
peaceable cultural phase, are that instinct of race solidarity
which we call conscience, including the sense of truthfulness and
equity, and the instinct of workmanship, in its naive,
non-invidious expression.
     Under the guidance of the later biological and psychological
science, human nature will have to be restated in terms of habit;
and in the restatement, this, in outline, appears to be the only
assignable place and ground of these traits. These habits of life
are of too pervading a character to be ascribed to the influence
of a late or brief discipline. The ease with which they are
temporarily overborne by the special exigencies of recent and
modern life argues that these habits are the surviving effects of
a discipline of extremely ancient date, from the teachings of
which men have frequently been constrained to depart in detail
under the altered circumstances of a later time; and the almost
ubiquitous fashion in which they assert themselves whenever the
pressure of special exigencies is relieved, argues that the
process by which the traits were fixed and incorporated into the
spiritual makeup of the type must have lasted for a relatively
very long time and without serious intermission. The point is not
seriously affected by any question as to whether it was a process
of habituation in the old-fashioned sense of the word or a
process of selective adaptation of the race.
     The character and exigencies of life, under that regime of
status and of individual and class antithesis which covers the
entire interval from the beginning of predatory culture to the
present, argue that the traits of temperament here under
discussion could scarcely have arisen and acquired fixity during
that interval. It is entirely probable that these traits have
come down from an earlier method of life, and have survived
through the interval of predatory and quasi-peaceable culture in
a condition of incipient, or at least imminent, desuetude, rather
than that they have been brought out and fixed by this later
culture. They appear to be hereditary characteristics of the
race, and to have persisted in spite of the altered requirements
of success under the predatory and the later pecuniary stages of
culture. They seem to have persisted by force of the tenacity of
transmission that belongs to an hereditary trait that is present
in some degree in every member of the species, and which
therefore rests on a broad basis of race continuity.
     Such a generic feature is not readily eliminated, even under
a process of selection so severe and protracted as that to which
the traits here under discussion were subjected during the
predatory and quasi-peaceable stages. These peaceable traits are
in great part alien to the methods and the animus of barbarian
life. The salient characteristic of the barbarian culture is an
unremitting emulation and antagonism between classes and between
individuals. This emulative discipline favors those individuals
and lines of descent which possess the peaceable savage traits in
a relatively slight degree. It therefore tends to eliminate these
traits, and it has apparently weakened them, in an appreciable
degree, in the populations that have been subject to it. Even
where the extreme penalty for non-conformity to the barbarian
type of temperament is not paid, there results at least a more or
less consistent repression of the non-conforming individuals and
lines of descent. Where life is largely a struggle between
individuals within the group, the possession of the ancient
peaceable traits in a marked degree would hamper an individual in
the struggle for life.
     Under any known phase of culture, other or later than the
presumptive initial phase here spoken of, the gifts of
good-nature, equity, and indiscriminate sympathy do not
appreciably further the life of the individual. Their possession
may serve to protect the individual from hard usage at the hands
of a majority that insists on a modicum of these ingredients in
their ideal of a normal man; but apart from their indirect and
negative effect in this way, the individual fares better under
the regime of competition in proportion as he has less of these
gifts. Freedom from scruple, from sympathy, honesty and regard
for life, may, within fairly wide limits, he said to further the
success of the individual in the pecuniary culture. The highly
successful men of all times have commonly been of this type;
except those whose success has not been scored in terms of either
wealth or power. It is only within narrow limits, and then only
in a Pickwickian sense, that honesty is the best policy.
     As seen from the point of view of life under modern
civilized conditions in an enlightened community of the Western
culture, the primitive, ante-predatory savage, whose character it
has been attempted to trace in outline above, was not a great
success. Even for the purposes of that hypothetical culture to
which his type of human nature owes what stability it has -- even
for the ends of the peaceable savage group -- this primitive man
has quite as many and as conspicuous economic failings as he has
economic virtues -- as should be plain to any one whose sense of
the case is not biased by leniency born of a fellow-feeling. At
his best he is "a clever, good-for-nothing fellow." The
shortcomings of this presumptively primitive type of character
are weakness, inefficiency, lack of initiative and ingenuity, and
a yielding and indolent amiability, together with a lively but
inconsequential animistic sense. Along with these traits go
certain others which have some value for the collective life
process, in the sense that they further the facility of life in
the group. These traits are truthfulness, peaceableness,
good-will, and a non-emulative, non-invidious interest in men and
     With the advent of the predatory stage of life there comes a
change in the requirements of the successful human character.
Men's habits of life are required to adapt themselves to new
exigencies under a new scheme of human relations. The same
unfolding of energy, which had previously found expression in the
traits of savage life recited above, is now required to find
expression along a new line of action, in a new group of habitual
responses to altered stimuli. The methods which, as counted in
terms of facility of life, answered measurably under the earlier
conditions, are no longer adequate under the new conditions. The
earlier situation was characterized by a relative absence of
antagonism or differentiation of interests, the later situation
by an emulation constantly increasing in relative absence of
antagonism or differentiation of interests, the later situation
by an emulation constantly increasing in intensity and narrowing
in scope. The traits which characterize the predatory and
subsequent stages of culture, and which indicate the types of man
best fitted to survive under the regime of status, are (in their
primary expression) ferocity, self-seeking, clannishness, and
disingenuousness -- a free resort to force and fraud.
     Under the severe and protracted discipline of the regime of
competition, the selection of ethnic types has acted to give a
somewhat pronounced dominance to these traits of character, by
favoring the survival of those ethnic elements which are most
richly endowed in these respects. At the same time the earlier --
acquired, more generic habits of the race have never ceased to
have some usefulness for the purpose of the life of the
collectivity and have never fallen into definitive abeyance.
     It may be worth while to point out that the dolicho-blond
type of European man seems to owe much of its dominating
influence and its masterful position in the recent culture to its
possessing the characteristics of predatory man in an exceptional
degree. These spiritual traits, together with a large endowment
of physical energy -- itself probably a result of selection
between groups and between lines of descent -- chiefly go to
place any ethnic element in the position of a leisure or master
class, especially during the earlier phases of the development of
the institution of a leisure class. This need not mean that
precisely the same complement of aptitudes in any individual
would insure him an eminent personal success. Under the
competitive regime, the conditions of success for the individual
are not necessarily the same as those for a class. The success of
a class or party presumes a strong element of clannishness, or
loyalty to a chief, or adherence to a tenet; whereas the
competitive individual can best achieve his ends if he combines
the barbarian's energy, initiative, self-seeking and
disingenuousness with the savage's lack of loyalty or
clannishness. It may be remarked by the way, that the men who
have scored a brilliant (Napoleonic) success on the basis of an
impartial self-seeking and absence of scruple, have not
uncommonly shown more of the physical characteristics of the
brachycephalic-brunette than of the dolicho-blond. The greater
proportion of moderately successful individuals, in a
self-seeking way, however, seem, in physique, to belong to the
last-named ethnic element.
     The temperament induced by the predatory habit of life makes
for the survival and fullness of life of the individual under a
regime of emulation; at the same time it makes for the survival
and success of the group if the group's life as a collectivity is
also predominantly a life of hostile competition with other
groups. But the evolution of economic life in the industrially
more mature communities has now begun to take such a turn that
the interest of the community no longer coincides with the
emulative interests of the individual. In their corporate
capacity, these advanced industrial communities are ceasing to be
competitors for the means of life or for the right to live --
except in so far as the predatory propensities of their ruling
classes keep up the tradition of war and rapine. These
communities are no longer hostile to one another by force of
circumstances, other than the circumstances of tradition and
temperament. Their material interests -- apart, possibly, from
the interests of the collective good fame -- are not only no
longer incompatible, but the success of any one of the
communities unquestionably furthers the fullness of life of any
other community in the group, for the present and for an
incalculable time to come. No one of them any longer has any
material interest in getting the better of any other. The same is
not true in the same degree as regards individuals and their
relations to one another.
     The collective interests of any modern community center in
industrial efficiency. The individual is serviceable for the ends
of the community somewhat in proportion to his efficiency in the
productive employments vulgarly so called. This collective
interest is best served by honesty, diligence, peacefulness,
good-will, an absence of self-seeking, and an habitual
recognition and apprehension of causal sequence, without
admixture of animistic belief and without a sense of dependence
on any preternatural intervention in the course of events. Not
much is to be said for the beauty, moral excellence, or general
worthiness and reputability of such a prosy human nature as these
traits imply; and there is little ground of enthusiasm for the
manner of collective life that would result from the prevalence
of these traits in unmitigated dominance. But that is beside the
point. The successful working of a modern industrial community is
best secured where these traits concur, and it is attained in the
degree in which the human material is characterized by their
possession. Their presence in some measure is required in order
to have a tolerable adjustment to the circumstances of the modern
industrial situation. The complex, comprehensive. essentially
peaceable, and highly organized mechanism of the modern
industrial community works to the best advantage when these
traits, or most of them, are present in the highest practicable
degree. These traits are present in a markedly less degree in the
man of the predatory type than is useful for the purposes of the
modern collective life.
     On the other hand, the immediate interest of the individual
under the competitive regime is best served by shrewd trading and
unscrupulous management. The characteristics named above as
serving the interests of the community are disserviceable to the
individual, rather than otherwise. The presence of these
aptitudes in his make-up diverts his energies to other ends than
those of pecuniary gain; and also in his pursuit of gain they
lead him to seek gain by the indirect and ineffectual channels of
industry, rather than by a free and unfaltering career of sharp
practice. The industrial aptitudes are pretty consistently a
hindrance to the individual. Under the regime of emulation the
members of a modern industrial community are rivals, each of whom
will best attain his individual and immediate advantage if,
through an exceptional exemption from scruple, he is able
serenely to overreach and injure his fellows when the chance
      It has already been noticed that modern economic
institutions fall into two roughly distinct categories -- the
pecuniary and the industrial. The like is true of employments.
Under the former head are employments that have to do with
ownership or acquisition; under the latter head, those that have
to do with workmanship or production. As was found in speaking of
the growth of institutions, so with regard to employments. The
economic interests of the leisure class lie in the pecuniary
employments; those of the working classes lie in both classes of
employments, but chiefly in the industrial. Entrance to the
leisure class lies through the pecuniary employments.
     These two classes of employment differ materially in respect
of the aptitudes required for each; and the training which they
give similarly follows two divergent lines. The discipline of the
pecuniary employments acts to conserve and to cultivate certain
of the predatory aptitudes and the predatory animus. It does this
both by educating those individuals and classes who are occupied
with these employments and by selectively repressing and
eliminating those individuals and lines of descent that are unfit
in this respect. So far as men's habits of thought are shaped by
the competitive process of acquisition and tenure; so far as
their economic functions are comprised within the range of
ownership of wealth as conceived in terms of exchange value, and
its management and financiering through a permutation of values;
so far their experience in economic life favors the survival and
accentuation of the predatory temperament and habits of thought.
Under the modern, peaceable system, it is of course the peaceable
range of predatory habits and aptitudes that is chiefly fostered
by a life of acquisition. That is to say, the pecuniary
employments give proficiency in the general line of practices
comprised under fraud, rather than in those that belong under the
more archaic method of forcible seizure.
     These pecuniary employments, tending to conserve the
predatory temperament, are the employments which have to do with
ownership -- the immediate function of the leisure class proper
-- and the subsidiary functions concerned with acquisition and
accumulation. These cover the class of persons and that range of
duties in the economic process which have to do with the
ownership of enterprises engaged in competitive industry;
especially those fundamental lines of economic management which
are classed as financiering operations. To these may be added the
greater part of mercantile occupations. In their best and
clearest development these duties make up the economic office of
the "captain of industry." The captain of industry is an astute
man rather than an ingenious one, and his captaincy is a
pecuniary rather than an industrial captaincy. Such
administration of industry as he exercises is commonly of a
permissive kind. The mechanically effective details of production
and of industrial organization are delegated to subordinates of a
less "practical" turn of mind -- men who are possessed of a gift
for workmanship rather than administrative ability. So far as
regards their tendency in shaping human nature by education and
selection, the common run of non-economic employments are to be
classed with the pecuniary employments. Such are politics and
ecclesiastical and military employments.
     The pecuniary employments have also the sanction of
reputability in a much higher degree than the industrial
employments. In this way the leisure-class standards of good
repute come in to sustain the prestige of those aptitudes that
serve the invidious purpose; and the leisure-class scheme of
decorous living, therefore, also furthers the survival and
culture of the predatory traits. Employments fall into a
hierarchical gradation of reputability. Those which have to do
immediately with ownership on a large scale are the most
reputable of economic employments proper. Next to these in good
repute come those employments that are immediately subservient to
ownership and financiering -- such as banking and the law.
Banking employments also carry a suggestion of large ownership,
and this fact is doubtless accountable for a share of the
prestige that attaches to the business. The profession of the law
does not imply large ownership ; but since no taint of
usefulness, for other than the competitive purpose, attaches to
the lawyer's trade, it grades high in the conventional scheme.
The lawyer is exclusively occupied with the details of predatory
fraud, either in achieving or in checkmating chicanery, and
success in the profession is therefore accepted as marking a
large endowment of that barbarian astuteness which has always
commanded men's respect and fear. Mercantile pursuits are only
half-way reputable, unless they involve a large element of
ownership and a small element of usefulness. They grade high or
low somewhat in proportion as they serve the higher or the lower
needs; so that the business of retailing the vulgar necessaries
of life descends to the level of the handicrafts and factory
labor. Manual labor, or even the work of directing mechanical
processes, is of course on a precarious footing as regards
respectability. A qualification is necessary as regards the
discipline given by the pecuniary employments. As the scale of
industrial enterprise grows larger, pecuniary management comes to
bear less of the character of chicanery and shrewd competition in
detail. That is to say, for an ever-increasing proportion of the
persons who come in contact with this phase of economic life,
business reduces itself to a routine in which there is less
immediate suggestion of overreaching or exploiting a competitor.
The consequent exemption from predatory habits extends chiefly to
subordinates employed in business. The duties of ownership and
administration are virtually untouched by this qualification.
     The case is different as regards those individuals or
classes who are immediately occupied with the technique and
manual operations of production. Their daily life is not in the
same degree a course of habituation to the emulative and
invidious motives and maneuvers of the pecuniary side of
industry. They are consistently held to the apprehension and
coOrdination of mechanical facts and sequences, and to their
appreciation and utilization for the purposes of human life. So
far as concerns this portion of the population, the educative and
selective action of the industrial process with which they are
immediately in contact acts to adapt their habits of thought to
the non-invidious purposes of the collective life. For them,
therefore, it hastens the obsolescence of the distinctively
predatory aptitudes and propensities carried over by heredity and
tradition from the barbarian past of the race.
     The educative action of the economic life of the community,
therefore, is not of a uniform kind throughout all its
manifestations. That range of economic activities which is
concerned immediately with pecuniary competition has a tendency
to conserve certain predatory traits; while those indusstrial
occupations which have to do immediately with the production of
goods have in the main the contrary tendency. But with regard to
the latter class of employments it is to be noticed in
qualification that the persons engaged in them are nearly all to
some extent also concerned with matters of pecuniary competition
(as, for instance, in the competitive fixing of wages and
salaries, in the purchase of goods for consumption, etc.).
Therefore the distinction here made between classes of
employments is by no means a hard and fast distinction between
classes of persons.
     The employments of the leisure classes in modernindustry are
such as to keep alive certain of the predatory habits and
aptitudes. So far as the members of those classes take part in
the industrial process, their training tends to conserve in them
the barbarian temperament. But there is something to be said on
the other side. Individuals so placed as to be exempt from strain
may survive and transmit their characteristics even if they
differ widely from the average of the species both in physique
and in spiritual make-up. the chances for a survival and
transmission of atavistic traits are greatest in those classes
that are most sheltered from the stress of circumstances. The
leisure class is in some degree sheltered from the stress of the
industrial situation, and should, therefore, afford an
exceptionally great proportion of reversions to the peaceable or
savage temperament. It should be possible for such aberrant or
atavistic individuals to unfold their life activity on
ante-predatory lines without suffering as prompt a repression Or
elimination as in the lower walks of life.
     Something of the sort seems to be true in fact. there is,
for instance, an appreciable proportion of the upper classes
whose inclinations lead them into philanthropic work, and there
is a considerable body of sentiment in the class going to support
efforts of reform and amelioration, And much of this
philanthropic and reformatory effort, moreover, bears the marks
of that amiable "cleverness" and incoherence that is
characteristic of the primitive savage. But it may still be
doubtful whether these facts are evidence of a larger proportion
of reversions in the higher than in the lower strata, Even if the
same inclinations were present in the impecunious classes, it
would not as easily find expression there; since those classes
lack the means and the time and energy to give effect to their
inclinations in this respect. The prima facie evidence of the
facts can scarcely go unquestioned.
     In further qualification it is to be noted that the leisure
class of today is recruited from those who have been successful
in a pecuniary way, and who, therefore, are presumably endowed
with more than an even complement of the predatory traits.
Entrance into the leisure class lies through the pecuniary
employments, and these employments, by selection and adaptation,
act to admit to the upper levels only those lines of descent that
are pecuniarily fit to survive under the predatory test. And so
soon as a case of reversion to non-predatory human nature shows
itself on these upper levels, it is commonly weeded out and
thrown back to the lower pecuniary levels. In order to hold its
place in the class, a stock must have the pecuniary temperament;
otherwise its fortune would he dissipated and it would presently
lose caste. Instances of this kind are sufficiently frequent.
     The constituency of the leisure class is kept up by a
continual selective process, whereby the individuals and lines of
descent that are eminently fitted for an aggressive pecuniary
competition are withdraw from the lower classes. In order to
reach the upper levels the aspirant must have, not only a fair
average complement of the pecuniary aptitudes, but he must have
these gifts in such an eminent degree as to overcome very
material difficulties that stand in the way of his ascent.
Barring accidents, the nouveaux arrivs are a picked body.
     This process of selective admission has, of course, always
been going on; ever since the fashion of pecuniary emulation set
in -- which is much the same as saying, ever since the
institution of a leisure class was first installed. But the
precise ground of selection has not always been the same, and the
selective process has therefore not always given the same
results. In the early barbarian, or predatory stage proper, the
test of fitness was prowess, in the naive sense of the word. to
gain entrance to the class, the candidate had to he gifted with
clannishness, massiveness, ferocity , unscrupulousness, and
tenacity of purpose. these were the qualities that counted toward
the accumulation and continued tenure of wealth. the economic
basis of the leisure class, then as later, was the possession of
wealth; hut the methods of accumulating wealth, and the gifts
required for holding it, have changed in some degree since the
early days of the predatory culture. In consequence of the
selective process the dominant traits of the early barbarian
leisure class were bold aggression, an alert sense of status, and
a free resort to fraud. the members of the class held their place
by tenure of prowess. In the later barbarian culture society
attained settled methods of acquisition and possession under the
quasi-peaceable regime of status. Simple aggression and
unrestrained violence in great measure gave place to shrewd
practice and chicanery, as the best approved method of
accumulating wealth. A different range of aptitudes and
propensities would then be conserved in the leisure class.
Masterful aggression, and the correlative massiveness, together
with a ruthlessly consistent sense of status, would still count
among the most splendid traits of the class. These have remained
in our traditions as the typical "aristocratic virtues." But with
these were associated an increasing complement of the less
obtrusive pecuniary virtues; such as providence, prudence, and
chicanery. As time has gone on, and the modern peaceable stage of
pecuniary culture has been approached, the last-named range of
aptitudes and habits has gained in relative effectiveness for
pecuniary ends, and they have counted for relatively more in the
selective process under which admission is gained and place is
held in the leisure class.
     The ground of selection has changed, until the aptitudes
which now qualify for admission to the class are the pecuniary
aptitudes only. What remains of the predatory barbarian traits is
the tenacity of purpose or consistency of aim which distinguished
the successful predatory barbarian from the peaceable savage whom
he supplanted. But this trait can not be said characteristically
to distinguish the pecuniarily successful upper-class man from
the rank and file of the industrial classes. The training and the
selection to which the latter are exposed in modernindustrial
life give a similarly decisive weight to this trait. Tenacity of
purpose may rather be said to distinguish both these classes from
two others; the shiftless ne'er do-well and the lower-class
delinquent. In point of natural endowment the pecuniary man
compares with the delinquent in much the same way as the
industrial man compares with the good-natured shiftless
dependent. The ideal pecuniary man is like the ideal delinquent
in his unscrupulous conversion of goods and persons to his own
ends, and in a callous disregard of the feelings and wishes of
others and of the remoter effects of his actions; but he is
unlike him in possessing a keener sense of status, and in working
more consistently and farsightedly to a remoter end. The kinship
of the two types of temperament is further shown in a proclivity
to "sport" and gambling, and a relish of aimless emulation. The
ideal pecuniary man also shows a curious kinship with the
delinquent in one of the concomitant variations of the predatory
human nature. The delinquent is very commonly of a superstitious
habit of mind; he is a great believer in luck, spells, divination
and destiny, and in omens and shamanistic ceremony. Where
circumstances are favorable, this proclivity is apt to express
itself in a certain servile devotional fervor and a punctilious
attention to devout observances; it may perhaps be better
characterized as devoutness than as religion. At this point the
temperament of the delinquent has more in common with the
pecuniary and leisure classes than with the industrial man or
with the class of shiftless dependents.
     Life in a modern industrial community, or in other words
life under the pecuniary culture, acts by a process of selection
to develop and conserve a certain range of aptitudes and
propensities. The present tendency of this selective process is
not simply a reversion to a given, immutable ethnic type. It
tends rather to a modification of human nature differing in some
respects from any of the types or variants transmitted out of the
past. The objective point of the evolution is not a single one.
The temperament which the evolution acts to establish as normal
differs from any one of the archaic variants of human nature in
its greater stability of aim -- greater singleness of purpose and
greater persistence in effort. So far as concerns economic
theory, the objective point of the selective process is on the
whole single to this extent; although there are minor tendencies
of considerable importance diverging from this line of
development. But apart from this general trend the line of
development is not single. As concerns economic theory, the
development in other respects runs on two divergent lines. So far
as regards the selective conservation of capacities or aptitudes
in individuals, these two lines may be called the pecuniary and
the industrial. As regards the conservation of propensities,
spiritual attitude, or animus, the two may be called the
invidious or self-regarding and the non-invidious or economical.
As regards the intellectual or cognitive bent of the two
directions of growth, the former may he characterized as the
personal standpoint, of conation, qualitative relation, status,
or worth; the latter as the impersonal standpoint, of sequence,
quantitative relation, mechanical efficiency, or use.
     The pecuniary employments call into action chiefly the
former of these two ranges of aptitudes and propensities, and act
selectively to conserve them in the population. The industrial
employments, on the other hand, chiefly exercise the latter
range, and act to conserve them. An exhaustive psychological
analysis will show that each of these two ranges of aptitudes and
propensities is but the multiform expression of a given
temperamental bent. By force of the unity or singleness of the
individual, the aptitudes, animus, and interests comprised in the
first-named range belong together as expressions of a given
variant of human nature. The like is true of the latter range.
The two may be conceived as alternative directions of human life,
in such a way that a given individual inclines more or less
consistently to the one or the other. The tendency of the
pecuniary life is, in a general way, to conserve the barbarian
temperament, but with the substitution of fraud and prudence, or
administrative ability, in place of that predilection for
physical damage that characterizes the early barbarian. This
substitution of chicanery in place of devastation takes place
only in an uncertain degree. Within the pecuniary employments the
selective action runs pretty consistently in this direction, but
the discipline of pecuniary life, outside the competition for
gain, does not work consistently to the same effect. The
discipline of modernlife in the consumption of time and goods
does not act unequivocally to eliminate the aristocratic virtues
or to foster the bourgeois virtues. The conventional scheme of
decent living calls for a considerable exercise of the earlier
barbarian traits. Some details of this traditional scheme of
life, bearing on this point, have been noticed in earlier
chapters under the head of leisure, and further details will be
shown in later chapters.
     From what has been said, it appears that the leisure-class
life and the leisure-class scheme of life should further the
conservation of the barbarian temperament; chiefly of the
quasi-peaceable, or bourgeois, variant, but also in some measure
of the predatory variant. In the absence of disturbing factors,
therefore, it should be possible to trace a difference of
temperament between the classes of society. The aristocratic and
the bourgeois virtues -- that is to say the destructive and
pecuniary traits -- should be found chiefly among the upper
classes, and the industrial virtues -- that is to say the
peaceable traits -- chiefly among the classes given to mechanical
     In a general and uncertain way this holds true, hut the test
is not so readily applied nor so conclusive as might be wished.
There are several assignable reasons for its partial failure. All
classes are in a measure engaged in the pecuniary struggle, and
in all classes the possession of the pecuniary traits counts
towards the success and survival of the individual. Wherever the
pecuniary culture prevails, the selective process by which men's
habits of thought are shaped, and by which the survival of rival
lines of descent is decided, proceeds proximately on the basis of
fitness for acquisition. Consequently, if it were not for the
fact that pecuniary efficiency is on the whole incompatible with
industrial efficiency, the selective action of all occupations
would tend to the unmitigated dominance of the pecuniary
temperament. The result would be the installation of what has
been known as the "economic man," as the normal and definitive
type of human nature. But the "economic man," whose only interest
is the self-regarding one and whose only human trait is prudence
is useless for the purposes of modern industry.
     The modern industry requires an impersonal, non-invidious
interest in the work in hand. Without this the elaborate
processes of industry would be impossible, and would, indeed,
never have been conceived. This interest in work differentiates
the workman from the criminal on the one hand, and from the
captain of industry on the other. Since work must be done in
order to the continued life of the community, there results a
qualified selection favoring the spiritual aptitude for work,
within a certain range of occupations. This much, however, is to
be conceded, that even within the industrial occupations the
selective elimination of the pecuniary traits is an uncertain
process, and that there is consequently an appreciable survival
of the barbarian temperament even within these occupations. On
this account there is at present no broad distinction in this
respect between the leisure-class character and the character of
the common run of the population.
     The whole question as to a class distinction in respect to
spiritual make-up is also obscured by the presence, in all
classes of society, of acquired habits of life that closely
simulate inherited traits and at the same time act to develop in
the entire body of the population the traits which they simulate.
These acquired habits, or assumed traits of character, are most
commonly of an aristocratic cast. The prescriptive position of
the leisure class as the exemplar of reputability has imposed
many features of the leisure-class theory of life upon the lower
classes; with the result that there goes on, always and
throughout society, a more or less persistent cultivation of
these aristocratic traits. On this ground also these traits have
a better chance of survival among the body of the people than
would be the case if it were not for the precept and example of
the leisure class. As one channel, and an important one, through
which this transfusion of aristocratic views of life, and
consequently more or less archaic traits of character goes on,
may be mentioned the class of domestic servants. these have their
notions of what is good and beautiful shaped by contact with the
master class and carry the preconceptions so acquired back among
their low-born equals, and so disseminate the higher ideals
abroad through the community without the loss of time which this
dissemination might otherwise suffer. The saying "Like master,
like man, " has a greater significance than is commonly
appreciated for the rapid popular acceptance of many elements of
upper-class culture.
     There is also a further range of facts that go to lessen
class differences as regards the survival of the pecuniary
virtues. The pecuniary struggle produces an underfed class, of
large proportions. This underfeeding consists in a deficiency of
the necessaries of life or of the necessaries of a decent
expenditure. In either case the result is a closely enforced
struggle for the means with which to meet the daily needs;
whether it be the physical or the higher needs. The strain of
self-assertion against odds takes up the whole energy of the
individual; he bends his efforts to compass his own invidious
ends alone, and becomes continually more narrowly self-seeking.
The industrial traits in this way tend to obsolescence through
disuse. Indirectly, therefore, by imposing a scheme of pecuniary
decency and by withdrawing as much as may be of the means of life
from the lower classes, the institution of a leisure class acts
to conserve the pecuniary traits in the body of the population.
The result is an assimilation of the lower classes to the type of
human nature that belongs primarily to the upper classes only.
     It appears, therefore, that there is no wide difference in
temperament between the upper and the lower classes; but it
appears also that the absence of such a difference is in good
part due to the prescriptive example of the leisure class and to
the popular acceptance of those broad principles of conspicuous
waste and pecuniary emulation on which the institution of a
leisure class rests. The institution acts to lower the industrial
efficiency of the community and retard the adaptation of human
nature to the exigencies of modern industrial life. It affects
the prevalent or effective human nature in a conservative
direction, (1) by direct transmission of archaic traits, through
inheritance within the class and wherever the leisure-class blood
is transfused outside the class, and (2) by conserving and
fortifying the traditions of the archaic regime, and so making
the chances of survival of barbarian traits greater also outside
the range of transfusion of leisure-class blood.
     But little if anything has been done towards collecting or
digesting data that are of special significance for the question
of survival or elimination of traits in the modern populations.
Little of a tangible character can therefore be offered in
support of the view here taken, beyond a discursive review of
such everyday facts as lie ready to hand. Such a recital can
scarcely avoid being commonplace and tedious, but for all that it
seems necessary to the completeness of the argument, even in the
meager outline in which it is here attempted. A degree of
indulgence may therefore fairly be bespoken for the succeeding
chapters, which offer a fragmentary recital of this kind.