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Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857-1929)

American economist and social critic. Professor of Political Economy at the University of Chicago from 1892-1906, and editor of 'The Journal of Political Economy' from 1896-1905. He also taught at Stanford (1906-09), University of Missouri (1911-18), and the New School for Social Research in NYC (1919). In 1918-19 Veblen also edited 'The Dial', a radical literary and political magazine in New York.

Best known for his first major work -- 'The Theory of the Leisure Class' -- Veblen took aim at his colleagues in the world of economics, urging them to focus on the social and cultural causes and effects of economic change and human behaviour. Economics, he argued, should not be studied as a closed system.

One can fully appreciate Veblen's keen criticisms of established social and economic institutions, and a taste of his biting satire, by reading directly from one of his major works -- 'The Theory of the Leisure Class':

"The function of dress as an evidence of ability to pay does not end with simply showing that the wearer consumes valuable goods in excess of what is required for physical comfort................A detailed examination of what passes in popular apprehension for elegant apparel will show that it is contrived at every point to convey the impression that the wearer does not habitually put forth any useful effort. It goes without saying that no apparel can be considered elegant, or even decent, if it shows the effect of manual labor on the part of the wearer, in the way of soil or wear. The pleasing effect of neat and spotless garments is chiefly, if not altogether, due to their carrying the suggestion of leisure -- exemption from personal contact with industrial processes of any kind. Much of the charm that invests the patent-leather shoe, the stainless linen, the lustrous cylindrical hat, and the walking-stick, which so greatly enhance the native dignity of a gentleman, comes of their pointedly suggesting that the wearer cannot when so attired bear a hand in any employment that is directly and immediately of any human use. . ."
Find available items by: Thorstein Veblen
Major Works of Thorstein Bunde Veblen
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class: An economic study of institutions (1899)
  • Theory of Business Enterprise (1904)
  • The Instinct of Worksmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts (1914)
  • Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution 1915)
  • An Inquiry into the Nature of Peace and the Terms of its Perpetuation (1917)
  • The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men (1918)
  • On the Nature and Uses of Sabotage (1919)
  • The Vested Interests and the Common Man (1919)
  • The Industrial System and The Captains of Industry (1917)
  • The Place of Science in Modern Civilization and other essays (1919)
  • The Engineers and the Price System (1917)
  • Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: the case of America (1923)
  • Essays in Our Changing Order (1927)

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