Veblen, Thorstein (1857–1929)

Thorstein Bunde Veblen, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was an iconoclastic economist, sociologist, historian, and philosopher whose astute analysis and biting satire on the tide of business enterprise in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century has endured to this day. He coined terms such as conspicuous consumption and vested interests, which remain in the popular lexicon. His fundamental insight was that the “state of the industrial arts” (technology) was a dynamic force in societal change that was often retarded by what he termed imbecile institutions. In making this dichotomy between technology and institutions, Veblen was not merely a one-sided technological determinist. Instead, he pointed out that in modern capitalist economies, there is often a conflict between making money and making ...

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