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

15 - Predation from Veblen until Now: Remarks to the Veblen Sesquicentennial Conference

from Part Four - Veblen's Economics


The language of the market serves a social function, which is to obscure and also to sanitise many economic encounters – especially encounters between the large business enterprise on one side and its customers, workers and suppliers on the other. On the blackboard, these encounters appear balanced: the supply curve matches that of demand; both are drawn in lines of equal width. The underlying thought is that by their weight of numbers, consumers, workers and suppliers just offset the mass of the organised firms. But of course no such balance exists in real life. There is every difference between an organised and a disorganised force, between an army and a mob. Thus, the lived experience of the relationship between the private individual and the business firm is, always and everywhere, one of a radical difference in power. The appropriate way to think about this is in terms that acknowledge the imbalance, and, although the fact is not very well known, for this purpose there already exists an economics of predator and prey.

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