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

13 - Veblen's Words Weighed

from Part Four - Veblen's Economics


Thorstein Veblen made significant contributions to economics. As the father of institutionalism, he was an important critic of capitalism and what he termed neoclassical economics. Interestingly, for an economist, Veblen's style of writing has gained as much attention as his ideas. His writing has been described as biting, ironic and satirical. Some of his phrases, like ‘conspicuous consumption’, have so penetrated our culture that they are familiar even to those who never heard the name Veblen.

Yet some of his phrases are so abstruse that even the economists whom he addressed failed to understand them. For instance, in his essay ‘Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science’, he asks,

if we are getting restless under the taxonomy of a monocotyledonous wage doctrine and a cryptogamic theory of interest, with involute, loculicidal, tomentous and moniliform variants, what is the cytoplasm, centrosome, or karyokinetic process to which we may turn, and in which we may find surcease from the metaphysics of normality and the controlling principles?

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