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Thorstein Veblen is happily to be found on the Web.


Thorstein Veblen is happily to be found on the Web. Thorstein Veblen was the most acerbic and salient economist of our history. That's an opinion. Once fashionable, Thorstein Veblen has stood the test of time and emerged a true prophet of consumer culture and its huge internal contradictions.

Here's a selection of sites that provide access to the thought this most stringent analyst of American (Western) culture and economics. Veblen's thought, like Nietzsche's, remains relevant to the present and future. It calls out for attention.

The Web is the future of words, of texts, of discourse. This page is a sample of the sorts of guideposts I find useful.

In general I have been subjective in my selection of Thorstein Veblem gems, delving deep into search results. I try not to feature sites that require downloads, or registration. I ignore sites that are too busy and seem hard to use.

I have not closed selections to critics of Thorstein Veblen. Please leave a comment if you wish to suggest a link or flag a non-working link.

I have placed the initial few sentences of each work linked to below to give a flavor of Thorstein Veblen's style and focus.

The institution of a leisure class is found in its best development at the higher stages of the barbarian culture; as, for instance, in feudal Europe or feudal Japan. In such communities the distinction between classes is very rigorously observed; and the feature of most striking economic significance in these class differences is the distinction maintained between the employments proper to the several classes. The upper classes are by custom exempt or excluded from industrial occupations, and are reserved for certain employments to which a degree of honour attaches.

In his exposition of the term "capital" Professor Böhm-Bawerk briefly touches on the wages-fund doctrine, so far as to reject summarily the proposition that the means of subsistence of productive laborers is drawn from the capital of the community, although, from the point of view of the employer, these "real wages" are to be regarded as drawn from his private capital. With the distinction which the discussion establishes between social capital and private capital, this position is, of course, in itself perfectly consistent.

M.G. de Lapouge recently said, "Anthropology is destined to revolutionise the political and the social sciences as radically as bacteriology has revolutionised the science of medicine." In so far as he speaks of economics, the eminent anthropologist is not alone in his conviction that the science stands in need of rehabilitation.

In the accepted economic theories the ground of ownership is commonly conceived to be the productive labor of the owner. This is taken, without reflection or question, to be the legitimate basis of property; he who has produced a useful thing should 
possess and enjoy it.

It is one of the commonplaces of the received economic theory that work is irksome. Many a discussion proceeds on this axiom that, so far as regards economic matters, men desire above all things to get the goods produced by labor and to avoid the labor 
by which the goods are produced.

It seems altogether probable that in the primitive groups of mankind, when the race first took to a systematic use of tools and so emerged upon the properly human plane of life, there was but the very slightest beginning of a system of status, with little of invidious distinction between classes and little of a corresponding division of employments.

In an earlier paper the view has been expressed that the economics handed down by the great writers of a past generation is substantially a taxonomic science. A view of much the same purport, so far as concerns the point here immediately in question, is presented in an admirably lucid and cogent way by Professor Clark in a recent number of this journal.

ADAM SMITH'S animistic bent asserts itself more plainly and more effectually in the general trend and aim of his discussion than in the details of theory ... Both in the Theory of the Moral Sentiments and in the Wealth of Nations there are many passages that testify to his abiding conviction that there is a wholesome trend in the natural course of things, and the characteristically optimistic tone in which he speaks for natural liberty is but an expression of this conviction. An extreme resort to this animistic ground occurs in his plea for freedom of investment.

IN what has already been said, it has appeared that the changes which have supervened in the preconceptions of the earlier economists constitute a somewhat orderly succession. The feature of chief interest in this development has been a gradual change in the received grounds of finality to which the successive generations of economists have brought their theoretical output, on which they have been content to rest their conclusions, and beyond which they have not been moved to push their analysis of events or their scrutiny of phenomena.

The system of doctrines worked out by Marx is characterized by a certain boldness of conception and a great logical consistency. Taken in detail, the constituent elements of the system are neither novel nor iconoclastic, nor does Marx at any point claim 
to have discovered previously hidden facts or to have invented recondite formulations of facts already known; but the system as a whole has an air of originality and initiative such as is rarely met with among the sciences that deal with any phase of 
human culture.

Marx worked out his system of theory in the main during the third quarter of the nineteenth century. He came to the work from the standpoint given him by his early training in German thought, such as the most advanced and aggressive German thinking was through the middle period of the century, and he added to this German standpoint the further premises given him by an exceptionally close contact with and alert observation of the English situation.

The Nature of Capital and Income is of that class of books that have kept the guild of theoretical economists content to do nothing toward "the increase and diffusion of knowledge" during the past quarter of a century. Of this class Mr Fisher's work is of the best -- thoughtful, painstaking, sagacious, exhaustive, lucid, and tenaciously logical. What it lacks is the breath of life; and this lack it shares with the many theoretical productions of the Austrian diversion as well as of the economists of more strictly classical antecedents.

There is less novelty, either in the course of the argument or in the results achieved, in the Rate of Interest than in Mr Fisher's earlier volume on the Nature of Capital and Income. Substantially the whole of it lies within the accustomed lines of that marginal-utility school of economics for which its author has so often and so convincingly spoken.

The limitations of the marginal-utility economics are sharp and characteristic. It is from first to last a doctrine of value,and in point of form and method it is a theory of valuation.

It is something more than a dozen years since the following observations on American academic life were first assembled in written form. In the meantime changes of one kind and another have occurred, although not such as to alter the course of policy 
which has guided American universities.

As is true of any other point of view that may be characteristic of any other period of history, so also the modern point of view is a matter of habit. It is common to the modern civilised peoples only in so far as these peoples have come through substantially the same historical experience and have thereby acquired substantially the same habits of thought and have fallen into somewhat the same prevalent frame of mind.

It is now something like a year since this book was written.And much of its argument is in the nature of forecast which has in great part been overtaken by the recipitate run of events during these past months.

Thorstein Veblen is to economics what Jonathan Swift is to English literature: a master of the art of satire. Is is essential to effective satire that its message be ambiguous: the reader should never be sure whether the author is absolutely serious or just pulling his or her leg

Thorstein Veblen ... was arguably the most original and penetrating economist and social critic that the United States has produced" (Rick Tilman, Thorstein Veblen and His Critics, 1891-1963; Princeton: Princeton UP., 1992, p. ix.). He was one of the first academics to examine the complex relationship between consumption and wealth in society.

Thorstein Veblen was odd man out in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century American economics. His position on the fringe started early.

As unconventional in his personal life as in his academic career, Thorstein Veblen always seemed to stand outside of his social and intellectual environment. In 1906, after fourteen years at the University of Chicago, some of which he had spent as a research fellow and instructor, he had risen only to the rank of assistant professor.

It is the author's contention that F. Scott Fitgerald's novel The Great Gatsby which was set in the 1920's was "not original with Fitzgerald, but reflects the influence, both directly and indirectly, of the earlier adversary of conspicous consumption and pecuniary emulation, Thorstein Veblen."

Veblen cannot be indiscriminately lumped with the common run of American academicians. Compared to the academic fossils of his time he was indeed one of the few outstanding original thinkers in America.

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (July 30, 1857 - August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist. Educated at Carleton College, Johns Hopkins University and Yale University, his most famous work, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) is a biting satire directed at the leisure class. He coined the widely used phrases "conspicuous consumption" and "pecuniary emulation".

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