You are here: ET home > Historical context > Veblen's writing
Elegant Technology
ET homeCurrent insightsElegant Technology definedHistorical contextAbout the authorend

Some of Thorstein Veblen's writings (all in .pdf format)

Thorstein B. Veblen


The essays

“Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science”

Veblen's first academic essay, it is a direct assault on the "scientific" pretensions of the economic community.

The Limitations of Marginal Utility

The Theory of Marginal Utility is the lynchpin of classical economics. It was also the pet subject of John Bates Clark, Veblen's first economics professor. Taking on Marginal Utility was necessary in any construction of an alternative to the traditionalists.

The Instinct of Workmanship and the Irksomeness of Labor

This essay would eventually lead to Veblen's favorite book—the 1914 Instinct of Workmanship. This essay is not as complete but it covers the same ground.

Review of John Maynard Keynes,
The Economic Consequences of the Peace

Keynes was a wealthy investment banker with a prestigious academic appointment at Cambridge. Veblen was the son of people who lived on the very edge of western civilization. Keynes was actually at Versailles when the end of World War I was negotiated. Veblen watched from the sidelines. Yet history will record that Veblen's analysis was an order of magnitude more prescient and interesting.



The Books

The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

The book that made TBV famous. It gave the language a new term—conspicuous consumption. Utterly brilliant!

The Higher Learning In America:
A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men

Whenever a lowly professor becomes internationally famous, there is built-in friction. The University of Chicago has since made it easier to finesse this problem. But from the moment Theory of the Leisure Class was published, Veblen's days at Chicago were numbered. This was John D. Rockefeller's school and making fun of robber barons would not be tolerated. This book describes the poisoned atmosphere in early 20th century academia using Chicago examples. Very little has changed.

The Vested Interests and the Common Man (1919)

Less theoretical than theory, this was Veblen describing an American society that was dealing with massive income inequality in the international panic following the Russian Revolution.

The Engineers and The Price System (1921)

Perhaps Veblen's most complex and political work, Engineers describes reasons why an industrial society should be managed by technically-trained experts.

modify datebloglinkall videosall pdf filescontact usend