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Hi--Thanks for a great summary of Veblen.  It makes me want to break out some of his books as I'm pretty unfamiliar with him and am particularly interested in what you say is the importance of "waste," which I assume can also be related to both overproduction and hyper-consumption.

On that note, I thought I would leave a quote from Zygmunt Bauman, a fairly controversial and puzzling "philosopher/sociologist" of our time.  I've been reading him quite a lot lately and he sees waste as integral to modernity "order-building."  Material waste, as a product of increased efficiency, rather than actually making things cheaper, requires capital and resources in the form of new markets, advertising, trash collection and mental space.  Waste is therefore a paradox that allows for the absorption of excess capital which could otherwise lead to inflation and the breakdown of the system.  Increased efficiency also leads to "wasted humans."  I'll quote Bauman here in a passage where he refers to immigrants:

Superfluous people are in a no-win situation. If they attempt to fall in line with currently lauded ways of life, they are immediately accused of sinful arrogance, false pretences and the cheek of claiming unearned bonuses...If they [the Superfluous] openly resent and refuse to honour those ways which may be savoured by the haves but are more like poison for themselves, the have-nots, this is promptly taken as proof of what 'public opinion' (more correctly, its elected or self-appointed spokespersons) 'told you all along'--that the superfluous are not just an alien body, but a cancerous growth gnawing at the healthy tissues of society and sworn enemies of 'our way of life' and 'what we stand for'. [Bauman "Wasted Lives" p. 41]

Waste (as trash, as people) is for Bauman a core part of our economic and political identity.

Anyway, I've ended up writing a longer more pedantic post than I intended when I just wanted to point some people towards Bauman and his theories of waste...

Thanks for the great post on Veblen.

by andrethegiant on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 09:37:45 AM EST

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