Scandinavian Nemesis

How IKEA Came to Belie Veblen’s Nordic Ideal

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ABSTRACT: Thorstein Veblen is the most important social scientist of the modern era. Veblen specially owes his greatness to having been the first economist to explore the spiritual world. He mapped these uncharted domains  with a view to laying new sociological foundations.

According to his vision, the path to justice, beauty, and the common good could only be traversed by a particular type. A type of social being free from the taint of barbarous animism, superstitious trepidation, and unreasoning fear. The good and the beautiful could be expected to come only of a stock of men and women that understood social life in terms of peace, the arts and sciences, and the betterment of their lot by way of technological discovery. The fortune of the group would thus hinge on the tabulated forecasts of a council of engineers. Specifically, the cosmic assignment of the latter is a communistic handling of the machine industry.

In sum, Veblen wants a world without salesmanship, finance, business, invidious comparison, dynastic rule, Catholic rococo and Judeo-Christian tyranny. Such a world is the Nordic Utopia of Scandinavian deliverance envisaged by Veblen. It looms as the remedy against the failures of Southern European anthropomorphic worship and Anglo-American Mammonism. Yet, IKEA, the late success-story from Sweden, has made good the Veblenian promises of aesthetic purity and thrift not through the dictates of engineers-kings, but within the very corporate arrangement that Veblen had analyzed, and vehemently condemned throughout his life (71 pp).

Extended version of “The Captain,” unpublished (2002)

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