Veblen trinkets – irksomeness of labour

Veblen-1024x768Thorstein Veblen discussing cultural practices before the advent of property, accumulation, branding, industrialiation and competition – the pathogens of the future are there in the collection of trinkets of work and war.

“There being little in hand worth owning and little purpose to be served by its ownership, the habits of thought which go to make the institution of ownership and property rights have not taken shape. The slight facts which would lend themselves to ownership are not of sufficient magnitude or urgency to call the institution into effect and are better handled under customs which do not yet take cognisance of property rights. Naturally, in such a cultural situation there is no appreciable accumulation of wealth and no inducement to it; the nearest approach being an accumulation of trinkets and personal belongings, among which should, at least in some cases, be included certain weapons and perhaps tools. These things belong to their owner or bearer in much the same sense as his name, which was not held on tenure of ownership or as a pecuniary asset before the use of trade-marks and merchantable goodwill.” (Veblen 1914 :144-5 – The Instinct of Workmanship and the Irksomeness of Labour. NY Macmillan).

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