The Moral Problems of Capitalism in Thorstein Veblen’s Thought


The purpose of this paper is to present the moral problems of capitalism in Veblen. For him, the emer￾gence of an ethically rational society or getting to the “good life” depends on the increase in real production and its
non-invidiously consumption. The increase in production hinges on an efficient and smoothly operating industry. The appearance of this reflected in human behavior is the dominance of positive instincts in society, especially the workmanship instinct. However, negative instincts such as predatory, pecuniary and emulative instincts dominate over the positive influences in the capitalist system for Veblen and these instincts lead bad behavior that emerges as two basic moral evils in front of the ideal of “good society”. These evils are the priority of pecuniary interests of businessmen, sabotaging the industrial system in various ways and the dominance of the leisure class values in society and by extension, social status coincides with the ostentatious and wasteful display of wealth. Although his possible visions for the future of capitalism have not occurred in the long run, his analysis sheds light on the problems modern capitalism experiences and what values should be prioritized today.


Veblen capitalism conspicuous consumption industry-business dichotomy waste positive instincts negative instincts