Ralph Waldo Emerson Self- reliance (1841)



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Background

  • He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Is the son of a working class English immigrant
  • After graduating from Yale, he became a minister
  • Returned to Yale as a professor of political and social science
  • He is known for his provocative ideas, rigorous intellectual standards and staunch moral conviction

Social Darwinism

  • Sumner became one of the leading proponents of laissez-faire and social darwinism
  • William Graham Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

Main Points

  • A person that doesn’t contribute to society is a burden on society
    • “a man who is present as a consumer, yet who does not contribute either by land, labor, or capital to the work of society, is a burden”
  • Every person has a responsibility to take care of themselves, to mind their own business
    • “every man and woman in society has one big duty. That is, to take care of his or her own self. This is a social duty.”.
  • William Graham Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

Main Points Cont.

  • The state can not make any money, they can only give money to one person by taking it away from another
    • “these conflicts are rooted in the supposed reality that one group wins on the expense of another group. The gains of some imply the losses of others. The path of achievement in society is trod over the well being of others.”
  • William Graham Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

The social structure is based on contract

  • “A society based on contract is a society of free and independent men, who form ties without favor or obligation, and co-operate without cringing or intrigue.”
  • William Graham Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

And that of the Forgotton Man

  • “He is not, technically, “poor” or “weak”; he minds his own business, and makes no complaint. Consequently the philanthropists never think of him, and trample on him…..”
  • William Graham Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

Thorstein Veblen’s Background

  • Born Toston Bunde Veblen on July 30, 1857 in Cato, Wisconsin to two Norwegian immigrants.
  • He was the sixth of twelve children.
  • Veblen graduated in 1880 from Carleton College, Minnesota.
  • In 1884, he received his Doctorate in Philosophy from Yale.
  • For seven years Veblen read books by volume on the farm in Minnesota, while he recuperated from malaria.
  • In 1891 Veblen enrolled as a graduate student in economics at Cornell.
  • Had an “appointment” at Stanford, but was asked to leave.
  • A year later he moved to the University of Chicago, where he stayed for 14 years as a faculty member.
  • In 1911, he joined the University of Missouri, but did not like it very much, but stayed until 1918.
  • 1918, he moved to New York and was editor of “The Dial”
  • In 1919 he helped found “The New School” (The New School for Social Research) and stayed their until 1926.
  • In 1927, he moved back to Palo A lto where he had property there, and ironically died a mere 3 months before the crash of the U.S. stock market, which brought on The Great Depression.
  • Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

Thorstein’s Views

  • Thorstein was an economist who disagreed with the views of Social Darwinism.
  • Social Darwinism is a theory that competition among all individuals, groups, nations, or ideas drives social evolution.
  • More commonly known with Darwinism: “Survival of the Fittest”
  • Majority of the Social Darwinist were wealthy, and Veblen saw them as “social parasites and hindrances to human evolution.”
  • Veblen thought that this was just greed and laziness and their wealth was not to "benefit all others”
  • WHAT IS SOCIAL DARWINISM?
  • Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

Main Point #1

  • The Leisure class is sheltered from economic exigencies.
  • “The exigencies of the struggle for the means of life are less exacting for this class than for any other; and as a consequence of this privileged position we should expect to find it one of the least responsive of the class of society to the demands with the situation makes for a further growth of institutions and a readjustment to an altered industrial situation.”
  • “The exigencies of the general economic situation of the community do not freely or directly impinge upon the members of this class.”
  • “They are not required under penalty of forfeiture to change their habits of life and their theoretical views of the external world to suit the demands of an altered industrial technique, since they are not in the full sense of an organic part of the industrial community.”
  • Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

Main Point #2

  • The Leisure Class IS the Conservative Class.
  • “The conservatism of the wealthy class is so obvious a feature that it has even come to be recognized as a mark of respectability.”
  • “Conservatism, being an upper-class characteristic, is decorous; and conversely, innovation, being a lowered class phenomenon, is vulger.”
  • “So that even in cases where one recognizes substantial merits of the case for which the innovator is spokesman-as may easily happen if the evils which he seeks to remedy are sufficiently remote in point of time or space or personal contact-still one cannot but be sensible of the fact that the innovator is a person with whom it is at least distasteful to be associated, and from whose special constant one must shrink. Innovation is bad form.”
  • Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)


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