Thorstein Veblen and the New Barbarians

In 1899, the maverick economist Thorstein Veblen proposed a unified field theory of American civilization. In his savage and oracular masterpiece, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen theorized that wasteful extravagance isn’t a mere byproduct of consumer capitalism, but its underlying rationale. After all, without gross displays of wealth—“conspicuous consumption” was Veblen’s memorable term—how […]

The Last Bohemian

In August of 1953, the American painter Beauford Delaney was aboard the ocean liner Liberté, bound for Paris, the city in which he would spend the rest of his life. The ship’s purser asked Delaney if he wouldn’t mind regaling the other passengers with some jazz standards. Delaney, it seems, had written “artiste” on his […]