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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: May 2013

7 - Ithaca Transfer: Veblen and the Historical Profession

from Part Two - American Education

Summary

Thorstein Bunde Veblen has passed into the annals of history as an academic enfant terrible: a womanising economist, atheist and iconoclast who mercilessly dissected the vices of the American leisure class, denounced the speculative vocations of their captains of industry and dismissed the entire corpus of contemporary economics and jurisprudence as empty theologies. Born to a Norwegian immigrant family on a Wisconsin farm in 1857, he grew up in a settlement inhabited by Irish and German settlers, from whom he learned both English and German early on. His foreign origins and segregated childhood, along with the autarkic principles and Lutheran morals of his parents, have often been invoked to explain Veblen's harsh denunciation of the American system. Indeed, he has been described as an ‘unacclimated alien’, an intellectual ‘wanderer’, and even an ‘interned immigrant’; a marauder on the border between the old world and the new who, like Peder Victorious in Rølvåg's epic saga about Norwegian-American immigration, nonetheless identified himself fully with neither of them.

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