Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen (thôr´stīn vĕb´lən), 1857–1929, American economist and social critic, b. Cato Township, Wis. Of Norwegian parentage, he spent his first 17 years in Norwegian-American farm communities. After studying at Carleton College and at Johns Hopkins, Yale (where he received a Ph.D. in 1884), and Cornell universities, Veblen taught at Chicago, Stanford, and Missouri universities and at the New School for Social Research, New York City. Detached from the dominant American society by his cultural background and temperament, Veblen was able to dissect social and economic institutions and to analyze their psychological bases, thus laying the foundations for the school of institutional economics. His dry, involved, satiric style enabled Veblen to coin famous phrases such as "conspicuous consumption." In his criticism of the price system, his analysis of the business cycle, and his interpretation of the role of technical men in modern society, there are implications for social engineering. Veblen did not achieve popular acclaim in his time but has since exerted significant influence. His works include The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), The Theory of Business Enterprise (1904), Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution (1915), The Engineers and the Price System (1921), and Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times (1923). He also translated The Laxdoela Saga (1925) from the Icelandic. Essays in Our Changing Order was published in 1934. Anthologies of his writings have been edited with introductions by W. C. Mitchell (1936) and Max Lerner (1948).

See selected writings ed. by W. C. Mitchell (1936, repr. 1964) and M. Lerner (1950). See also biographies by J. Dorfman (1934, repr. 1966), J. A. Hobson (1936, repr. 1971), and D. F. Dowd (1964); studies by R. V. Teggart (1932, repr. 1966), S. Daugert (1950), D. F. Dowd, ed. (1958), and C. C. Qualey, ed. (1968).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

What Veblen Taught: Selected Writings of Thorstein Veblen
Thorstein Veblen; Wesley C. Mitchell.
Viking Press, 1936
FREE! The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions
Thorstein Veblen.
Macmillan, 1915
Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America
Thorstein Veblen.
B.W. Huebsch, Inc., 1923
FREE! Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution
Thorstein Veblen.
B. W. Huebsch, 1918
Underground Economics: A Decade of Institutionalist Dissent
William M. Dugger.
M. E. Sharpe, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Origins of Thorstein Veblen's Thought" and Chap. 5 "Veblen and Kropotkin on Human Evolution"
The Evolution of Institutional Economics: Agency, Structure, and Darwinism in American Institutionalism
Geoffrey M. Hodgson.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Darwinian Mind of Thorstein Veblen" and Chap. 8 "Veblen's Evolutionary Institutionalism"
The Economic Mind in America: Essays in the History of American Economics
Malcolm Rutherford.
Routledge, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Europe in America: Veblen and His Canadian Connections" and Chap. 12 "Marshall, Veblen, and the Search for an Evolutionary Economics"
Should Economics Be an Evolutionary Science? Veblen's Concern and Philosophical Legacy. (Clarence Ayres Memorial Lecture)
Lawson, Tony.
Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 36, No. 2, June 2002
How Economics Forgot History: The Problem of Historical Specificity in Social Science
Geoffrey M. Hodgson.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Thorstein Veblen and the Foundations of Institutionalism"
Essays on the History of Economics
Warren J. Samuels; Willie Henderson; Kirk D. Johnson; Marianne Johnson.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Thorstein Veblen as Economic Theorist"
Communication and the Transformation of Economics: Essays in Information, Public Policy, and Political Economy
Robert E. Babe.
Westview Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Communication Theory of Thorstein Veblen"
Cognitive Developments in Economics
Salvatore Rizzello.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Guesswork and Knowledge in Evolutionary Economics: Veblen Revisited"
Inequality: Radical Institutionalist Views on Race, Gender, Class, and Nation
William M. Dugger.
Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Egalitarian Significance of Veblen's Business - Industry Dichotomy"
Thorstein Veblen's Views on American "Exceptionalism": An Interpretation
Tilman, Rick.
Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 39, No. 1, March 2005
Stylistic Sabotage and Thorstein Veblen's Scientific Irony
Cassano, Graham.
Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 39, No. 3, September 2005
The Theory of Business Enterprise and Veblen's Neglected Theory of Corporation Finance
Ganley, William T.
Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 38, No. 2, June 2004
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