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Leisure & Landscape: Canons of taste

(Added 26 June 2006)

Conspicuous Consumption
Thorstein Veblen

Unproductive Consumption of Goods is Honourable
Penguin Books – Great Ideas
First published 1899

Canons of Taste; Greenery and Pets

Everyday life affords many curious illustrations of the way in which the code of pecuniary beauty in articles of use varies from class to class, as well as of the way in which the conventional tastes of beauty departs In its deliverances from the sense untutored by the requirements of pecuniary repute. Such a fact is the lawn, or the close-cropped yard or park, which appeals so un-affectedly to the taste of Western peoples…

The close cropped lawn is beautiful in the eyes of people whose inherited bent it is to readily find pleasure in contemplating a well preserved pasture or grazing land.

For the aesthetic purpose the lawn is a cow pasture; and in some cases to-day – where the expensiveness of the attendant circumstances bars out any imputation of thrift – the idyl of the dolicho-blond is rehabilitated in the introduction of a cow into a lawn or private ground. In such cases the cow made use of is commonly of an expensive breed. The vulgar association of thrift, which is nearly inseparable from the cow, is a standing objection to the decorative use of this animal. So that in all cases, except where luxurious surroundings negative this suggestion, the use of the cow as an object of taste must be avoided. Where the predilection for some grazing animal to fill out the suggestion of pasture is too strong to be suppressed, the cow’s place is often given to some more or less inadequate substitute, such as deer, antelopes, or some such exotic beast. These substitutes, although less beautiful to the pastoral eye of Western man than the cow, are in such cases preferred because of their superior expensiveness or futility, and their consequent repute. They are not vulgarly lucrative either in fact or suggestion. (Exerpt p.60 & 61, Penguin edition, 2005)

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