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John Adams, Thorstein Veblen, and the Social Foundations of the Economy


  • June O'Neill

    (Baruch College, City University of New York
    Congressional Budget Office)

  • John Adams

    (Northeastern University)


John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Thorstein Veblen are two of the nation's most original social thinkers. Although there is no evidence of any direct link between the two, they share common views of economic affairs. They believed that consumption was driven by emulation and status rivalry, a notion perfectly captured in Veblen's most memorable phrase, "conspicuous consumption." Adams and Veblen saw the economy as embedded in a constantly evolving social, legal, and political matrix. They harbored doubts about the social and moral consequences of financial capitalism, as contrasted with their admiration for directly productive agriculture, crafts, and industry. Their shared holism, and a derivative emphasis on property and power relationships, sharply distinguishes their viewpoint from that of modern economic science, but allies them with American and European institutionalists.

Suggested Citation

  • June O'Neill & John Adams, 1997. "John Adams, Thorstein Veblen, and the Social Foundations of the Economy," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 379-394, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:eej:eeconj:v:23:y:1997:i:4:p:379-394

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    JEL classification:

    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School


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