‘The Captain’

The Travelogues and Twisted Science of Thorstein Veblen

ABSTRACT: Thorstein Veblen, though recognized as a “classic” author, has been since his death in 1929 virtually ignored. In light of the fact that he was the most important social scientist of the modern era, such neglect is a shame. A shame that must be erased. This article focuses on the particular philosophical view that supports the whole edifice of Veblen’s social frescoes. It argues, specifically, that the extraordinary tenor of Veblen’s economic investigation stems from a semi-hidden fascination of the author with “occult agencies.” In other words, with the invisible realms of idolatry, devout belief, and national “genius.”

I see Veblen as the first modern, unconfessed, explorer of the spiritual world. A pioneer, who mapped uncharted domains with a view to laying new foundations for economic analysis. As a result, Veblen revolutionized economic sociology. This radical, unique turn, however, suffered the most profound incomprehension owing to a certain queerness of style. This strangeness was the tormented combination of Veblen’s professed atheism with his instinctive draw towards the praeternatural.

In The International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 33 n.1 (2006): 33 – 53

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