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Thorstein Veblen Paper - Essay Example

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This paper addresses how the work of Thorstein Veblen relates to several issues in U.S. economic history. Since one of Veblen's central ideas is the notion that man's attitudes for the most part are not calculated and rational but dictated by the institutions by which he lives, we can go quickly through the institutions that shaped Veblen's mind to better understand his manner of thinking and what influenced his work.
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Thorstein Veblen Paper

Download file to see previous pages... His father's systematic and methodical practice of his craft, and the simple work ethic of the people around him, made a lasting imprint on his mind. The impact on his thinking of the marked behavioral and lifestyle contrast between the industrious, hardworking farmer-artisans and the small businessmen, traders, and lawyers (mostly white Americans) in the towns found its expression in much of his work in later years.
Until 1891, when Veblen found a teaching post at the economics faculty of the University of Chicago, he was practically a professional failure. But once he was attached to an "institution" of higher learning, he thrived and his career blossomed, moving to Stanford in 1906, the University of Missouri in 1910, and in 1918 worked at various posts, lectured, and wrote thought-provoking works that continue to challenge modern minds to this day.
We see in this distinction his insight into the working of the economy as a coordinated system with two components: the producing, technology-driven, practical side called industry and the coordinating, value-providing, and capital stimulating business enterprise. His concept of industry does not only relate to the working of machines. Veblen applies it equally to agriculture and animal husbandry as to encompass any activity that involves a series of precise, interdependent, and interlocking processes that are larger in scope than the machines, animals, and crops that are harnessed for public consumption and convenience. He calls 'captains of industry' those who coordinate these industrial processes.
Veblen (6) looked at industrial process as having two clear and general characteristics: it has to be well-coordinated and precise. These, he concluded, would lead to greater efficiency and the development of standards that, in turn, would lead to uniformity.
The eventual conclusion in a market where free competition exists is the production of goods that are more affordable, an increase in consumption, and the development of new products based on profits generated by the continuing industrial process.
The over-all coordination of the machine industrial processes has to be done with precision, because any imbalance would affect its efficiency, threatening the integrity of the system and producing waste, idleness, and hardships (18). How is such over-all coordination achieved This is where the business enterprise plays an important and decisive role.
Veblen states (19) that "the organization of the several industries as well as the interstitial adjustments and discrepancies of the industrial process at large are of the nature of pecuniary transactions and obligations. It therefore rests with the business men to make or mar the running adjustments of industry."
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