Thorstein Veblen and the Culture of Capitalism
ARTHUR K. DAVIS
PROBABLY NO AMERICAN ACADEMIC FIGURE has been the focus of so much controversy as Thorstein Veblen ( 1857-1929). Born of Norwegian immigrant parents, he spent his youth on poverty-stricken homestead farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Parental thrift and his own intellectual curiosity managed to secure him an education at nearby Carleton College (A.B. 1880) and at Yale (Ph.D. 1884). Not until 1892, however, at the age of thirty-five, did he find an opportunity to begin his teaching career in economics at Chicago. For a quarter-century he maintained an uncertain footing, sometimes interrupted by involuntary withdrawals, in various universities. In 1918, he left the academic profession for writing and occasional lecturing in New York City, dying finally in obscure poverty in California.
Veblen's great achievement is the sequence of the eleven books he wrote, beginning with The Theory of the Leisure Class ( 1899), his only really famous work. But his ideas proved to be too iconoclastic