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Introduction to "Knowledge, Finance and Consumption in Veblen's Thought"

Listed author(s):
  • Giuliani, Alfonso


    (CES – Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (CNRS))

  • Forges Davanzati, Guglielmo


    (Università del Salento)

Veblen’s contribution to economic theory has received renewed interest (see, among others, Tilman, 2003), with particular reference to two distinct aspects. First, his approach to institutions – defined as a “special method of life and of human relations” (Veblen, [1889] 1975, 188) – has been re-proposed within the so-called new Institutionalism, with the aim of presenting a theory of economic behaviour (where instincts, habits, customs and transaction costs play a pivotal role) opposed to the mainstream “rational choice” view (see Hodgson, 1988). Second, attention has been devoted to his arguments on “conspicuous consumption” and emulation as well as the relation between consumption by the “leisure class” and the process of income distribution (see, among others, Bowles and Park, 2007). There is no doubt that Veblen provides significant economic and sociological categories which can also be useful in interpreting current macroeconomic dynamics, and that his theories on the functioning of the firm and on the path of income distribution are still relevant in the current context of global crisis. This special issue collects contributions of historians of economic thought, economists and sociologists specifically inte rested in using Veblen’s theories to interpret current phenomena. Marc-André Gagnon and Dimitri della Faille in “Thorstein Veblen, économiste iconoclaste” discuss the complexity of Veblenian thought, finding connections between biographical aspects of the American economist and the theoretical elements that characterize his works. In the central part of the article the authors analyze the theory of society’s socio-economic evolution and Veblen’s institutional theory highlighting the complex relationship that his thought has with the theory of evolution of C. Darwin and of H. Spencer. The article concludes with the lines of research that Veblen’s thought has left in inheritance to contemporary scholars. The contribution of John F. Henry sheds light on Thorstein Veblen’s political orientation. In the first section of “The political orientation of Thorstein Veblen” Henry provides a reconstruction of the Veblenian view on the functioning of a capitalist system, based on predatory exploitation by a ruling class over the working class, with selfless public welfare being interpreted as a political position close to Marx. In the second and final section of the article, the author shows that although Veblen did not consider himself Marxist and never openly declared his political position, he sympathized with the Bolshevik revolution and specifically observed the role of the soviet technician as a possible tool to overcome the inefficiency, waste and parasitism of the capitalist system. In conclusion the author points out the “marked similarity between the general theory of Marx and Veblen.”

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Article provided by Lavoisier in its journal European Journal of Economic and Social Systems.

Volume (Year): 26 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1-2 ()
Pages: 7-10

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Handle: RePEc:ris:ejessy:0007
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