Thorstein Veblen is a very interesting being. I read about Veblen in economics books. For instance 'The Worldly Philosophers' has a whole chapter on him. To understand the context of where he fit. Adam Smith said small government with maximum freedom means wealth. But then David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus showed some complications to Adam Smith's theories. So John Stuart Mill taught that institutions are the solution. For instance if the landowner is getting rich at everybody's expense, how bout the landowner gets taxed more?
In this context Thorstein Veblen shows that economists will always disagree on any solution. If their are 5 economists in the room you will get 6 different answers. Veblen saw two main groups of people. Those of the Leisure Class who are the rich rulers, who waste resources and set society's norms. The others conform as they are worried about fitting in and end up wasting time and money on things that have no benefit to them. Then he saw the industrial class as the solution. As industry develops, people become more and more matter of fact.
Veblen saw ancient but not modern religion as an example of the leisure class setting norms. He saw religious ornaments and ceremonies as a waste of time. He saw those working in the factory, and focusing on the matter of facts of breaking free of the norms established by the Leisure Class. To him ancient religion took control of people by using fear. However, he saw modern religion as good. He saw charities as giving back to the people, and he saw this as becoming more and more reality.
Unfortunately some of what Veblen has advocated has come to pass, and the world is no better. We have become more technological in our communication-internet and cellphones; and have less time for face to face communication. I miss those days. Another worrying thing is that Karl Marx was against family, religion and private property. Veblen was also against the traditional family, traditional religion and private property. He was against traditional family in the sense that the woman would concentrate on having children and pleasing her man instead of working in the family. Where they disagreed is that Marx saw technology as part of the ruling class, and making the life of everybody else miserable. Whereas Veblen saw the machine as ultimately liberating people. He also saw mankind on an evolutionary path, whereas Marx saw the end of capitalism as the 2nd to last stage.
In all Veblen, is a very interesting being as he comes from a very unique point of view. One last thing about ancient vs modern religion. 'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" James 1:27. So there you have it he wasn't against all forms of religion. I'm giving him 5 stars not because I agree or disagree with him, but simply cause he presented a different view in economics, and different economists have different views. And last of all yes he did write many books and articles, but most of his other books are just a build on. This book covers the majority of his ideas.
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About the Author
Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and the author of One Nation, After All and Moral Freedom.