The Economic Mind in America: Essays in the History of American Economics

By Malcolm Rutherford | Go to book overview

11

EUROPE IN AMERICA

Veblen and his Canadian connections 1

Robin Neill

INTRODUCTION

America is part of Euro-American civilization, and American intellectual history is part of Euro-American intellectual history, and cannot be understood apart from it. As an element in this general hypothesis I conjecture that John Rae, Thorstein Veblen, and Harold Innis cannot be understood apart from the content of Common Sense Scottish Philosophy. Their environment in America occasioned new departures, and controlled what they accepted from Europe, but what they accepted was from Europe, and their new departures were from a European base.

John Rae, Thorstein Veblen, and Harold Innis were heretical economists. All three were deeply concerned with scientific method, rejecting classical and neoclassical economics on that ground. Innis explicitly drew on the work of Veblen (Innis 1929; Baragar 1996), and it has been suggested that Veblen drew on the work of Rae (Spengler 1959a: 35-38; Edgell and Tilman 1991), so it is reasonable to speculate on the nature of the intellectual connections between all three. The nature of these connections throws light on the place of European thought in American intellectual history, and on the meaning of the doctrines of all three men.


JOHN RAE

Introduction

There were three grounds on which Rae criticized Adam Smith and the classics: the ground of scientific method, the ground of human motivation, and the ground of human epistemology and psychology. The first of these was drawn directly from Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum. The second turned

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