Thorstein Veblen Additional Biography

Biography

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (VEHB-luhn) was born to Norwegian immigrant parents on a farm in Wisconsin when that state was still largely on the frontier. In 1865 the family moved to a 290-acre farm in Minnesota in a Norwegian community where Old World ways and speech were dominant. When Veblen was seventeen, his father, eager for his children to be educated, enrolled his son at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

After graduation Veblen went to Madison, Wisconsin, where he taught for a year (1880-1881) at Monona Academy. Afterward, he enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University. Failing to receive a fellowship there, he left before the first term’s end for Yale University, where he took a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1884. That same year two of his writings appeared: an essay on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy and an essay on the surplus federal revenue of 1837. The latter won the John Addison Porter Prize.

Unable to find a job despite his publications and his doctorate, Veblen returned to the farm in Minnesota, where he led an unhappy life. After marrying Ellen May Rolfe, whom he had known in college, he moved with her to a farm in Iowa. In 1891 he obtained a fellowship at Cornell University, continuing to write for academic journals. Through a friend he received a teaching fellowship at the new University of Chicago in 1892, where he remained until 1906. During this period he also served as editor...

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Bibliography

Dowd, Douglas Fitzgerald. Thorstein Veblen. Rev. ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 2000. Depicts Veblen as a penetrating thinker, one who cast a fresh eye on the contemporary American passion for making money.

Jorgenson, Elizabeth. Thorstein Veblen: Victorian Firebrand. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1999. Biography sets to correct previous popular impression of Veblen as a notorious womanizer, examining his enlightened views on women’s equality in society.

Louca, Francisco, and Mark Perlman. Is Economics an Evolutionary Science? The Legacy of Thorstein Veblen. Northampton, Mass.: E. Elgar, 2000. Collection of essays makes clear both the strengths and weaknesses of Veblen’s theories, which regarded economic laws as evolutionary, not absolute.

Spindler, Michael. Veblen and Modern America: Revolutionary Iconoclast. Sterling, Va.: Pluto, 2002. Study sets Veblen’s work in its social and intellectual context, spelling out its main concepts and reestablishing the extent of its influence. Portrays Veblen as a seminal analyst and critic of American culture.

“Thorstein Veblen in Contemporary Perspective.” Social Science Quarterly 60, no. 3 (December, 1979). A special issue devoted to an overview of scholarship on Veblen.

Tilman, Rick. The Intellectual Legacy of Thorstein Veblen. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Provides historical context, describing the changes in the American society and economy to which Veblen’s writings respond.