No matter which of these books we open, we find the idea that life in a modern industrial community is the result of a polar conflict between 'pecuniary employments' and 'industrial employments', between 'business enterprise' and 'the machine process', between 'vendibility' and 'serviceability'-in short, between making money and making goods. There is a class struggle under capitalism, not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but between businessmen and engineers. Pecuniary habits of thought unite bankers, brokers, lawyers and managers in a defence of private acquisition; in contrast, the discipline of the machine unites workers in industry and more especially the technicians and engineers who supervise them.
It is in these terms that Veblen describes modern industrial civilisation. As we read him, we have the feeling that something is being explained. And yet in the end the ambiguity of the message remains. He appears to offer a fundamental critique of the market mechanism and a call for something like a technocratic revolution, but Veblen warns us specifically against the belief that the engineers are capable of taking over and running the system, which leaves us wondering just what he is saying. But perhaps the desire to pin him down precisely misses the point: it is, after all, satire and is designed to open your eyes, not to close your mind.