Authors Archives: Aaron Stuvland

Thorstein Veblen and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism


Thorstein Veblen’s analysis of America’s capitalist society in The Theory of the Leisure Class contains one chapter toward the end of his argument on religion, or, as he articulates it, “devout observances” (191).  The substance of Veblen’s critique of religion fits well within his larger treatment of the leisure class—indeed, the forces at work in religion seem to mirror much of what he finds wrong with capitalist societies.  But, Veblen also brackets his critique of religion to distinguish it from a more general, spiritual dimension, referenced elsewhere throughout his work.  In what follows, I discuss Veblen’s critique of religion and consider ways in which Veblen’s analysis and vision for capitalism contains a spiritual dimension.

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