The Prescience and Ongoing Relevance Found in Thorstein Veblen's Political Economy

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Journal of Economic Issues

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This inquiry advances the thesis that selected ideas of Thorstein Veblen should be appreciated, not only for their prescience but also for their ongoing relevance. To this end our inquiry considers selected chapters of Veblen’s The Theory of Business Enterprise, especially Chapters II, IX and X. In this 1904 publication Veblen introduced the idea that a “social problem” would emerge as pecuniary ambitions of businessmen exerted influence over “media,” the variable that he singled out for its ability to carry into the future a distinct culture that underpinned the rise and achievements of the bourgeois-liberal western world. Veblen’s notion of the “social problem” is reconsidered and relied upon to explain developments in the contemporary political economy of the United States, especially the emergence of forms of patriotism and nationalism that endorse the rise of autocratic regimes, replacing what has been known and appreciated as representative democracy rooted in civil society.


© 2023, Journal of Economic Issues/Association for Evolutionary Economics



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