Thorstein Veblen–someone to remember NOW!


I was born in Minnesota but have spent most of my life in Virginia. Many from Minnesota that I knew or my parents knew were of Norwegian ancestry. One more American of that ancestry that may have lessons to teach US now is Thorstein Veblen.

Thorstein Veblen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thorstein Veblen
Institutional economics
Veblen3a.jpg
Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857-1929)
Born July 30, 1857
Cato, Wisconsin
Died August 3, 1929 (aged 72)
Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, California
Nationality NorwegianAmerican
Field evolutionary economics; sociology
Opposed Karl Marx, Neoclassical economics, German historical school
Influences Herbert Spencer,[1] William Graham Sumner, Lester F. Ward, William James, William McDougall, Georges Vacher de Lapouge,
Influenced Wesley Clair Mitchell, Clarence Edwin Ayres, John Kenneth Galbraith, C. Wright Mills, Robert A. Brady, Harold Adams Innis, Edith Penrose, Jonathan Nitzan
Contributions conspicuous consumption, penalty of taking the lead, ceremonial / instrumental dichotomy

Thorstein Bunde Veblen, born Torsten Bunde Veblen (July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist, and a leader of the so-called institutional economics movement. Besides his technical work he was a popular and witty critic of capitalism, as shown by his best known book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).

Veblen is famous in the history of economic thought for combining a Darwinian evolutionary perspective with his new institutionalist approach to economic analysis. He combined sociology with economics in his masterpiece, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), arguing there was a basic distinction between the productiveness of “industry,” run by engineers, which manufactures goods, and the parasitism of “business,” which exists only to make profits for a leisure class. The chief activity of the leisure class was “conspicuous consumption“, and their economic contribution is “waste,” activity that contributes nothing to productivity. The American economy was therefore made inefficient and corrupt by the businessmen, though he never made that claim explicit. Veblen believed that technological advances were the driving force behind cultural change, but, unlike many contemporaries, he refused to connect change with progress.

Although Veblen was sympathetic to state ownership of industry, he had a low opinion of workers and the labor movement and there is disagreement about the extent to which his views are compatible with Marxism 1. As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, his sweeping attack on production for profit and his stress on the wasteful role of consumption for status greatly influenced socialist thinkers and engineers seeking a non-Marxist critique of capitalism. Fine (1994) reports that economists at the time complained that his ideas, while brilliantly presented, were crude, gross, fuzzy, and imprecise; others complained he was a wacky eccentric. Scholars continue to debate exactly what he meant in his convoluted, ironic and satiric essays; he made heavy use of examples of primitive societies, but many examples were pure invention.[2]

Whatever the the criticisms and perhaps because both of my grandfathers trained as engineers I have always had great respect for that profession. Thus, to some degree I think the decline of that profession in the USA is part of our problem in a globalized world. That conclusion seems supported by the writings of Thorstein Veblen.
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