Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen

Excerpt

No one remotely like Thorstein Veblen can ever be expected to appear again. As a man, as a scholar, and as a stylist, he was an original, always incomparably himself. This uniqueness makes it all the more ironic that Veblen should so often be put down as a derivative thinker. Talcott Parsons, the eminent but often indecipherable sociologist, has clearly stated, "Quite adequate comprehension of all Veblen's real contributions can be found in Weber's works." We shall have to inspect some of Veblen's "real contributions"; it will then become apparent that they cannot be found in Weber's works -- which were probably more important, but different. A less eccentric, if equally indefensible, opinion was expressed in the 1930's by Lewis Corey, then a radical activist, when he wrote, "All that is vital in Thorstein Veblen may fulfill itself in Marxism and socialism." This of Veblen, as if he had not, at Harvard University in 1906, discussed and dismissed "The Socialist Economics of Karl Marx and His Followers" in a special series of subsequently published lectures. Veblen's critique of Marx, whose "boldness of conception and great logical consistency" he admired, is all but definitive. He branded Marx as a Romantic philosopher, committed to an inadmissible rationalism, an untenable theory of surplus value containing too many traces of David Ricardo and William Thompson, and a teleological theory of history which, through dialectic sequence, "animistically" imputed purposes and inevitability to the social process. Veblen repudiated classical economics. He felt that Marx basically belonged to that school if only by his acceptance of natural liberty and natural rights as scientific principles. Moreover, Veblen charged the latterday socialists with having already succumbed to jingoism and militarism, an infection he thought would blight their movement as it spread from Germany to other countries. But if he was not simply a . . .

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