Ryan

The Useful Grievance

In the January-February issue of Quadrant this year I wrote about Thorstein Veblen, whose book The Theory of the Leisure Class stirred up a sensation in the early 1900s. Its thesis: as soon as humans achieve basic sufficiency in nutrition, shelter and physical security, their only drive becomes vainglory—the urge to show off and “big-note” themselves. Veblen supported his case with wit and learning. Because of the interest readers showed in Veblen, I turned in the July-August issue to another maverick social scientist, Helmut Schoeck, whose book Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour appeared in the late 1960s. Its message:…

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