PRATIE PLACE

Friday, January 23, 2009

[Hannah]: A Theorist of Conspicuous Consumption Considers Pets

"The cat is less reputable than [the dog or the fast horse] because she is less wasteful; she may even serve a useful end. At the same time the cat's temperament does not fit her for the honorific purpose [i.e., glorifying her master]. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of all distinctions of worth, honour, and repute, and she does not lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her owner and his neighbors...

"The dog has advantages in the way of uselessness as well as in special gifts of temperament. He is often spoken of, in an eminent sense, as the friend of man, and his intelligence and fidelity are praised. The meaning of this is that the dog is man's servant and that he has the gift of an unquestioning subservience and a slave's quickness in guessing his master's mood.... He is the filthiest of the domestic animals in his person and the nastiest in his habits. For this he makes up in a servile, fawning attitude toward his master, and a readiness to inflict damage and discomfort on all else."

-Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption, 1899

(Weird, he doesn't mention donkeys anywhere.)

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