The influential economist and philosopher Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) was one of the most original and penetrating critics of American culture and institutions, and his work attracted and still attracts the attention of scholars from a wide range of political viewpoints and scholarly disciplines. Focusing on the doctrinal and theoretical facets of Veblen's political economy, this book offers a study not only of his ideas but also of the way his critics have responded to them. Rick Tilman assesses the weight of the critics' reactions, both positive and negative, as well as exposing their sometimes mistaken interpretations of Veblen's work. As he scrutinizes the ideologies of the conservatives, liberals, and radicals who commented on Veblen, he portrays the diversity of social theory in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with the first criticism of Veblen's work during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison and concluding with Daniel Bell's attack on him during the Kennedy administration, the book emphasizes those critics who systematically confronted the doctrinal structure of Veblen's thought and believed that they perceived in it fundamental weaknesses. But even the most negatively inclined--such as Paul Baran, Irving Fisher, and Talcott Parsons--admitted some of Veblen's strengths. Ironically, his supporters at times stripped his work of much of its potential for political and moral enlightenment without intending to do so.
Originally published in 1992.
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"[Tilman] asserts that Veblen stands in the front rank of modern Western social theorists.... Tilman writes with clarity and intelligence. He understands the cultural determinants of human behavior, including the market economy."--Journal of American History
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