Modern Economic Thought: The American Contribution

By Allan G. Gruchy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
7
The Administrative Economics of Gardiner C. Means

In 1923 Thorstein Veblen published his final blast at a world too preoccupied with the post-war period of "economic normalcy" to pay much attention to this aging prophet of capitalistic doom. Veblen Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times summarized his critical analysis of the trends of large-scale corporate business which he had been elaborating ever since the turn of the century. As was the case with most of his earlier analyses, this last book of Veblen's was written for those few who endeavored to keep informed about the new developments in the evolving industrial system. The majority of people were too much concerned with the immense possibilities of the post-war era of prosperity to take note of the pronouncements of an unorthodox economist who professed to see not lasting prosperity but the inevitable decay of existing business arrangements.

If the rush of events proved to be unkind to Veblen, it was not similarly unsympathetic to Gardiner C. Means. Ten years after the appearance of Veblen's last volume, Means, in collaboration with Adolf A. Berle Jr., published The Modern Corporation and Private Property. This analysis of modern corporate enterprise was so widely read and so well received that Means's reputation as a progressive young economist was soon established. Three years of a depression that revealed few tendencies to work itself out according to the usual pattern had created a public attitude which was very favorable to the reception of Berle and Means's study of the functioning of the modern corporation. What was of general interest was that their analysis went below the surface to the fundamental causes of a depression which threatened at any time to turn into an unprecedented social catastrophe. Having a message

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