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Envy in neoliberalism: Revisiting Veblen's emulation and invidious distinction

Wrenn, Mary V.


Mary Wrenn
Senior Lecturer in Economics


© 2015, Journal of Economic Issues / Association for Evolutionary Economics. Cautionary tales admonishing against the evils of envy crowd religion and folklore across cultures. Pre-capitalist societies attempted to suppress envy, and familial and community relations held the emotion of envy in check through social sanctions. Capitalism, however, encourages envy. The connection between capitalism and envy is not new. Thorstein Veblen (2007) methodically addressed it in his explanation of invidious distinction and emulation. As capitalism has evolved into its present incarnation of neoliberalism, however, envy has also evolved. The evolution, nature, and role of envy within neoliberalism must be studied in order to understand more fully its consequences. This research seeks to examine the social ontology of envy. According to advocates of neoliberalism, inequality serves an important social function: It is the great motivator, without which individuals would not have incentives to improve. Inequality and - by extension - envy are thus heralded as the prime catalysts of economic activity.


Wrenn, M. (2015). Envy in neoliberalism: Revisiting Veblen's emulation and invidious distinction. Journal of Economic Issues, 49(2), 503-510.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2015
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2015
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Journal Journal of Economic Issues
Print ISSN 0021-3624
Electronic ISSN 1946-326X
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 2
Pages 503-510
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Economic Issues on 19th June 2015, available online:


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