Conflict and Conversion: Henry S. Dennison and the Shaping of J.K. Galbraith's Economic Thought

By Bruce, Kyle | Journal of Economic Issues, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Conflict and Conversion: Henry S. Dennison and the Shaping of J.K. Galbraith's Economic Thought


Bruce, Kyle, Journal of Economic Issues


A sizable amount of attention in the history of economic thought has been devoted to unraveling the unique contributions of John Kenneth Galbraith. Not nearly as much the subject of contention as is Thorstein Veblen--the intellectual figure with whom his thought is most often compared--Galbraith is no less controversial. [1] Yet within the discourse and despite some guidance from Galbraith in interviews and his "official" and "unofficial" memoirs, very little has been said about a key period in Galbraith's intellectual development, a period that laid much of the philosophical groundwork for his ensuing research agenda. During the second half of the 1930s, following his early New Deal service and initial Harvard appointment, Galbraith became something of a peripatetic scholar, teacher, and researcher and found himself employed as a "tutor-in-residence" to Boston businessman Henry S. Dennison. The two subsequently penned two largely overlooked monographs, Modern Competition and Business Policy and Toward Full E mployment, both of which were published in 1938.

The purpose of this paper is to explore Dennison's influence on an economist considered by many adherents to be the most important living exponent of "old" institutionalism. The central means of going about this task is to review Dennison and Galbraith's work and, more importantly, to utilize the latter's testimony to elaborate upon the snippets of reference in the secondary literature to this key period in his life. [2] It is argued that Dennison played a key role in prodding Galbraith to defect from orthodoxy and to embrace the then-controversial ideas of J.M. Keynes' General Theory before their wider acceptance even at Harvard, which is viewed as "the principle avenue by which Keynes" ideas passed to the United States" (Schlesinger 1984, 9; Galbraith 1971, 49). [3] It is also argued that Galbraith's later foray into the US industrial order was an important outcome of his defection from orthodoxy. The seeds of Galbraith's embrace of more heterodox ideas regarding the functioning of the industrial order wer e planted in his mind as a result of his relationship with Dennison.

The paper is organized as follows: The first section outlines the nature and significance of the intellectual relationship between Galbraith and Dennison and explores the former's recollections as a means of assessing the extent of Dennison's influence on Galbraith's embrace of the ideas of Keynes. This influence is evidenced in the next two parts of the paper by exploring Dennison and Galbraith's joint monographs, as is the emergence of his interest in a more heterodox consideration of industrial organization. In the final section, this line of argument is pursued more forcefully and it is demonstrated that the germ of Galbraith in later writings on industrial organization, the corporation, and the behavior of business managers lay gestating in his joint publications with Dennison.

Dennison's Proto-Keynesianism and Its Impact on Galbraith

After completing his PhD at University of California, Berkeley, and a brief stint with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in Washington, D.C., Galbraith joined the Department of Economics at Harvard in late 1934. There he met Edwin Gay, who had returned to the Cambridge side of the Charles River following distinguished service as foundation dean of the Harvard Business School. In the summer of 1936, Gay introduced and recommended Galbraith to his friend, Boston businessman Henry S. Dennison, as a possible teacher of economics. Dennison subsequently hired Galbraith as a tutor-in-residence [4] and to assist in the preparation of a manuscript that Dennison, together with fellow scientific managers Lincoln Filene, Morris Leeds, and Ralph Flanders, wished to propound as the liberal business response to the Great Depression. These corporate liberals were united in the view that government had to do something about escalating unemployment and so broke with conservative business ranks in support of President F. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Conflict and Conversion: Henry S. Dennison and the Shaping of J.K. Galbraith's Economic Thought
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.