Thursday, November 12, 2015

James Bond, Gentleman of Leisure

I've already discussed Veblen's theory of the leisure class as a way of understanding the figure of James Bond, but a particular passage in Chapter IV of his book, titled "Conspicuous Consumption," strikes me as worth sharing more closely.

The consumption of the "gentleman of leisure," Veblen notes, besides being lavish in quantity and expense, "also undergoes a specialisation as regards the quality of the goods consumed" (emphasis added). The increase of "personal comfort and well-being" is part of this, but there is, as Veblen notes, the "honorific" aspect. The gentleman, after all,
is no longer simply the successful, aggressive male--the man of strength, resource, and intrepidity . . . he must also cultivate his tastes, for it now becomes incumbent on him to discriminate with some nicety between the noble and the ignoble in consumable goods. He becomes a connoisseur in creditable viands of various degrees of merit, in manly beverages and trinkets, in seemly apparel and . . . weapons, games, dancers, and the narcotics. This cultivation of aesthetic faculty requires time and application, and [results in] a more or less arduous application to the business of learning how to live a life of ostensible leisure in a becoming way. Closely related to the requirement that the gentleman must consume freely and of the right kind of goods, there is the requirement that he must know how to consume them in a seemly manner.
Thus the clothes, the watches, the cars must be of suitable brands; he must not only have his martini, but he must take it specifically shaken, not stirred; and it is only appropriate that he favor Old World casinos over the "trap for peculiarly insensitive mice . . . tempted by the coarsest cheese" that is Vegas.

Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
James Bond, Aristocratic Action Hero
Of Ian Fleming and Thorstein Veblen
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on James Bond

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