CENTENNIAL REASSESSMENT OF VEBLEN'S
THEORY OF CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION
1. All references to this text are from the 1970 edition published in London
by Unwin Books.
2. The letters in question are from Veblen to Miss Hardy dated November 10,
1895 and December 15, 1895, and one to 'My Dear Friend' dated February 6, 1896.
The continuity of the contents of these letters suggests, as Dorfman has correctly
assumed (1934: 132), that Miss Hardy was also the recipient of the third letter.
In the November letter Veblen wrote that: 'The first volume on the list is
the Theory of the Leisure Class, and I have taken that up in a small way this
month - I am putting in an hour or two a day on it ... I have written part
of the introductory chapter, - what would make perhaps some twelve, fifteen
small pages.' In the December letter Veblen reported on his progress: 'The
Leisure Class was of course shelved while the December Journal took the floor
... after having written what will perhaps make some fifty or sixty pages when
revised, I have not yet come in sight of the doctrine of conspicuous waste,
which is of course to constitute the substantial nucleus of this writing.'
In the February letter Veblen noted that: ' ... in the last three weeks the "Leisure
Class" has been in abeyance, having achieved nothing beyond contributing
some half dozen sheets of handwriting to the waste-basket.' All three letters
form part of the Joseph Dorfman Papers, owned by Columbia University Library,
3. In Fred. R. Yoder's course notes there several references to Boas including
his research reports on the Kwakiutl Indians dated 1895-6. These notes also
form part of the Joseph Dorfman Papers held in Columbia University Library.
4. See especially Tilman (1992: 215-6).
5. In the past three months there have been two press reports in Britain on
the increasing popularity of 'Voluntary Simplicity'. The empirical reference
point of the first item was America (Carlin 1996), in the second it was Britain
(Tredre 1996), and both noted that it was a middle class pattern.
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TO: Correcting the history about Thorstein Bunde Veblen