The Anthem Companion to Thorstein Veblen

The Anthem Companion to Thorstein Veblen

Edited by Sidney Plotkin

Anthem Companions to Sociology

“The Anthem Companion to Thorstein Veblen” offers a collection of original essays by leading scholars in the field of Veblen studies. Contributions span a wide range of Veblen’s concerns, with a special emphasis on Veblen’s significance for contemporary debates about epistemology, social evolution, values, higher education, capitalist development and politics.

Hardback, 286 Pages

ISBN:9781783082797

May 2017

£70.00, $115.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Amidst cascading global financial and political crises of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, scholars have turned for insight to the work of the radical American thinker, Thorstein Veblen. Inspired by an abundance of new research, social scientists from multiple disciplines have displayed a heightened appreciation for Veblen’s importance and value for contemporary social, economic and political studies. “The Anthem Companion to Thorstein Veblen,” edited with an introduction by Sidney Plotkin, is a stimulating addition to this new body of Veblen scholarship.

The essays in the first part consider Veblen’s method, philosophy and values. Sociologist Erkki Kilpinen peers deeply into Veblen’s highly original theory of action and its implications for a sociological understanding of “the instinct of workmanship.” In contrast, economist William Waller, building on contemporary work in evolutionary economics and psychology, urges a considerably more bio-psychological interpretation of Veblen’s instinct theory. Intellectual historians Rick Tilman and Kohl Glau, exploring the secular foundations of Veblen’s moral theory, furnish a sharp critique of recent efforts to wed Veblen with Catholic social thought. Challenging older understandings, Russell H. and Sylvia E. Bartley, careful students of Veblen’s biography, offer novel insights into the impact of Veblen’s education at Carlton College, while sociologist Stephan G. Mestrovic thoughtfully insists that Veblen unduly limited his affirmation of “idle curiosity” as a chief resource for learning to elite post graduate schools.

Contemporary applications of Veblen’s theory to studies of capitalism, social structure and politics are the focus of the contributions in the next part. Anthropologist John Kelly forcefully urges a reconsideration of Veblen’s critical theory as an inspiration for both students and activists in an age of capitalism “after post-modernism and post-coloniality.” Returning to Veblen’s most important early work, sociologist Ahmet Oncu skillfully weaves the theory of the leisure class into a rich and exciting re-interpretation of Turkey’s Ottoman ruling groups. Building on Veblen’s critical theory of absentee ownership and power, political scientist Sidney Plotkin analyzes Veblen’s embrace of local forms of political economic self-rule, but notes Veblen’s sense of the ideological ambiguity of popular resistance to centralized power. Finally, geographer Ross Mitchell applies the radical democratic potential of Veblen’s concept of “the masterless man” to an understanding of both the possibilities and limits of contemporary left movements. Throughout, the essays offer fresh material for ongoing reconsiderations of Thorstein Veblen as a major theoretical resource for the contemporary social sciences.

Reviews

The Anthem Companions to Sociology offers wide ranging and masterly overviews of the works of major sociologists. The volumes in the series provide authoritative and critical appraisals of key figures in modern social thought. These books, written and edited by leading figures, are essential additional reading on the history of sociology. — Gerard Delanty, Professor of Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton

This ambitious series provides an intellectually thoughtful introduction to the featured social theorists and offers a comprehensive assessment of their legacy. Each edited collection synthesizes the many dimensions of the respective theorist’s contributions and sympathetically ponders the various nuances in and the broader societal context for their body of work. The series will be appreciated by seasoned scholars and students alike. — Michele Dillon, Professor of Sociology and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, University of New Hampshire

The orchestration and emergence of the Anthem Companions to Sociology represent a formidable and invaluable achievement. Each companion explores the scope, ingenuity, and conceptual subtleties of the works of a theorist indispensable to the sociological project. The editors and contributors for each volume are the very best in their fields, and they guide us towards the richest, most creative seams in the writings of their thinker. The results, strikingly consistent from one volume to the next, brush away the years, reanimate what might have been lost, and bring numerous rays of illumination to the most pressing challenges of the present. — Rob Stones, Professor of Sociology, Western Sydney University, Australia

The Anthem Companions, those that have appeared already and those that are to come, will give every sociologist a handy and authoritative guide to all the giants of their discipline. — Stephen Mennell, Professor Emeritus, University College Dublin

Each volume of the Anthem Companions to Sociology examines comprehensively not only a theorist’s distinct approach and unique contributions, but also situates each in reference to the major parameters of mainstream theoretical schools and traditions. This remarkable Series in addition throws into high relief the singular features of modern societies. It promises to set the standard for discussions of Sociology’s long-term development and belongs on the shelves of every social scientist.— Stephen Kalberg, Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Boston University 

This valuable series covers both familiar figures in the history of sociology (such as Max Weber and, prospectively, Marx and Durkheim) and less often treated ones such as Arendt and Troeltsch who are also highly relevant to sociology, broadly conceived. In these books, leading scholars explore important but often neglected aspects of their subjects’ work. — William Outhwaite, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Newcastle University, UK

Author Information

Sidney Plotkin is professor of political science and Margaret Stiles Halleck Chair of Social Sciences at Vassar College, USA. He received his PhD in political science from City University of New York. Plotkin has written extensively on issues of land use, political power and community action, resulting in numerous articles and two books, Keep Out: The Struggle for Land Use Control (1987) and Private Interest, Public Spending (1994). More recently, his attention has turned to the work of Thorstein Veblen, about whom he has published many articles, and, with Rick Tilman, The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen (2011). Plotkin has served as president of the International Thorstein Veblen Association.

Series

Anthem Companions to Sociology

Table of Contents

Introduction: Thorstein Veblen’s Elusive Mind; Part I: Method, Philosophy and Values; 1. The Instinct of Workmanship and Other Philosophical Concepts in Thorstein Veblen’s Methodology; 2. Reconsidering Thorstein Veblen’s Use of Instincts; 3. Roman Catholic Critics of Thorstein Veblen and Institutional Economists; 4. The Metaphysical World of Thorstein Veblen: Of and Beyond the Here and Now; 5. Veblen’s Position on Education Analyzed and Reformulated; Part II: Capitalism, Social Structure and Politics; 6. Re-Igniting the Anthropology of Capitalism: Returning to Veblen, after postmodernism, after postcoloniality; 7. On the Social Origin of the Leisure Class in Turkey: For a Veblenian Turn in the Marxian Research Program of Turkish Studies; 8. Veblen’s Localism and its Ambiguities; 9. Learning from Veblen’s Masterless Man for Grassroots Democratic Change; Index.

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