It is the purpose of this study to inquire into the nature and significance of the American movement to reconstruct economic science which had its beginnings in the work of Richard T. Ely, Simon N. Patten, and Thorstein Veblen, and which has in recent years undergone considerable modification at the hands of John R. Commons, Wesley C. Mitchell, John M. Clark, Rexford G. Tugwell, Gardiner C. Means, and other American economists with a similar approach to economic studies. It is now generally conceded by historians of the evolution of economic thought that this movement to revamp economics has turned out to be the most distinctive American contribution to the progress of economic science. Although by now the general pattern of the movement is fairly clear, as yet little has been done to explain in any detailed fashion the nature and scope of the scientific reconstruction envisioned by Veblen and other critics of economic orthodoxy. It is the general aim of this treatise to endeavor to remove this deficiency in the field of modern American economic thought.
In the first three decades of the current century the American movement to revamp economic science came to be known as "institutionalism," while the work of the economists concerned with this movement was described as "institutional economics." In the closing years of Veblen's career there appeared other American economists who were also greatly interested in the reconstruction of economics. Although their work has much in common with Veblen's economics, the younger exponents of economic heterodoxy do not describe their thought as "institutional economics." Such terms as "social," "experimental," and "collective" have been substituted for "institutional" in descriptions of the new economics. Since 1929, the year in which Veblen died, it has increasingly become the custom to use the term "institutional" to refer to Veblen's special accomplishments rather than to describe the efforts of post-Veblenian economists to carry on the work of reconstructing economics. It