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

2 - Veblen's Contexts: Valdres, Norway and Europe; Filiations of Economics; and Economics for an Age of Crises

Summary

After Ireland, Norway is the country that lost the largest part of its population through migration to America, and one of the Norwegian areas that lost the most was Veblen's Valdres. Most Norwegians have some family or relation who left for America, and I am no exception. I grew up with stories about the United States and what to me seemed like an exotic tribe: the Norwegian-Americans (norskamerikanerne).

I later found it fascinating that one of these Norwegian-Americans was an important economist, but I found reading Veblen challenging. Eventually, however, I was able to make the words of a 1920 reviewer of Veblen my own:

Reading him tightens the muscles and stiffens the intellectual spine. One comes away from him a bit bruised and panting but with a sense of power exerted and power achieved. It has been suggested that someone ought to rewrite Mr.Veblen, to put him into such flowing measures as would delight the readers of the Saturday Evening Post. But then there would be no Mr. Veblen.

Reading Veblen in the 1970s, the capitalism he described was as unfamiliar as Marx's ‘army of the unemployed'. Veblen's idea that business could represent some modern version of piracy sounded just as strange as when he proposed that one of the tools of business was sabotage.

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