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Veblen's Evolutionary Programme: A Promise Unfulfilled

Listed author(s):
  • Rutherford, Malcolm

This article examines in detail the way in which Veblen attempted to give theoretical expression to the program for an evolutionary economics that he outlined in methodological terms in his 1898 essay 'Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science?' Veblen's conception of 'Darwinian' methodological principles led him to attempt to develop a theory of institutional evolution that was purely 'causal' in nature. This theory was never satisfactorily developed by Veblen. At base, his theory was one of new technology changing economic conditions, and new economic conditions leading to new ways of thinking and to new institutions through a (non-intentional) process of 'habituation.' Those who attempted to follow Veblen, such as Hoxie and Mitchell, found difficulties with the key aspects of this theory, and both men came to abandon it. Institutionalism in the interwar period is devoid of attempts to develop Veblen's theory, and Veblen's program remained a promise unfulfilled. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 22 (1998)
Issue (Month): 4 (July)
Pages: 463-477

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Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:22:y:1998:i:4:p:463-77
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