The steam engine invented in 1765, ushered in industrial societies. Based on machines powered by fuels, these societies created a surplus that stimulated trade among nations.
Then came more efficient machines. As the surpluses grew even greater, the emphasis gradually changed from producing goods to consuming them. In 1912, sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption to describe this fundamental change in people's orientations.
Veblen meant that the Protestant ethic identified by Weber an emphasis on hard work, savings and a concern for salvation was being replaced by an eagerness to show off wealth by the elaborate consumption of goods.