Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

B150, B250, B310

Key Words

Conspicuous consumption, Evolutionary economics, History of thought, Institutional economics, Thorstein Veblen


This inquiry seeks to counter a hypothesis recently advanced by Jon D. Wisman; which states that Thorstein Veblen “missed” the opportunity to incorporate sexual selection into his evolutionary economics. To the contrary, I shall argue that Veblen’s vision is not at all lacking and that he intentionally failed to integrate into his evolutionary thinking the animal drive of sexual selection. First-off, I offer an account of Wisman’s thesis and this is followed by a refutation of his argument while making use of Veblen’s key concepts. Tracing the evolution of “conspicuous consumption” to its social inception, I endeavor to reveal the consistent distinction made between biological drives and cultural propensities found in Veblen’s work. Lastly, I shall widen the scope of this inquiry and consider Veblen’s interpretation of the role of science in society, generally, and his place in the history of economic thought, specifically.


© Jenica M. Kramer

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