Thorstein Bunde Veblen 101: The Famous American Economist
Zatrun Published at September 11, 2023

Thorstein Bunde Veblen 101: Who is the Famous American Economist? in our article of, a result, we will cover in detail everything you need to know about Thorstein Bunde Veblen, the famous American Economist that our readers are curious about.

His Life and Educational Life

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857-1929) was an American economist, sociologist and academic who played a crucial role in the establishment of the institutional school of economics. Thanks to his seminal works, he is widely recognized as one of the earliest theoreticians of this movement. He is also a non-Marxist critic of the capitalist system.

Thorstein Bunde Veblen was born in Wisconsin, USA to a farming family that emigrated from Norway. Growing up in a small rural town, his family later took him to a farm in Nerstrand, Minnesota, where Veblen learned English from neighbors and public schools while maintaining a connection to his Norwegian origins. Veblen remained committed to his Scandinavian heritage throughout his life. He even translated and published Icelandic epics into English. Despite his family’s strict adherence to Lutheran Protestantism, he visited Norway several times to Lutheran Protestantism, which Veblen did not join because he was an atheist.

Thorstein Bunde Veblen received his university education at Carleton College Academy in Northfield, Minnesota (now Carleton College), where he was deeply influenced by the teachings of John Bates Clark, who would later become a famous neoclassical economist in America. Veblen studied graduate studies in economics at Johns Hopkins University and Yale University, earning his Ph.D. in 1884 with a dissertation that he submitted to Yale University.

Career Life

Thorstein Bunde Veblen had difficulty finding a position at a university until 1891. During that year, when he was living on his family’s farm, he got a job as a student lecturer at Cornell University. He received his first academic appointment and title (as an associate professor in 1900) at the newly established University of Chicago. While at this university, he was the editor of the famous academic economics journal “Journal of Political Economy” and published two books critical of businessmen: “Theory of the Idle Class” (1899) and “Business Theory” ” (1904). he married in 1888, but he was never happy in this marriage.

in 1906, he was appointed to Stanford University. However, he was not well liked by ideologues due to his famous critical attitude towards businessmen and private enterprises, and he was also subjected to criticism for his inappropriate home life. For this reason, he left his wife and the university in 1911 and transferred to the University of Missouri. There he remarried in 1914. However, he was subjected to constant criticism and ridicule from ideologues from inside and outside the university. Due to these reactions, he left his job in 1918 and moved to New York.

He became the editor of the influential magazine “The Dial” in New York. from 1919 to 1926, he made significant contributions to the establishment and development of the “New School of Social Research”, now known as the New School. Also during this period, he published his book “Engineers and the Price System”, in which he predicted that the revolutions of Soviet Russia were made with engineers and that a new economic system, the “Engineer State”, would be established. He also contributed to the development of institutions that advanced these ideas, such as the “Technological Alliance” and the “Technocracy Movement”.

in 1927, Thorstein Bunde Veblen moved to his home in Palo Alto, California. He died three months before the Great Depression, which he had predicted long ago, occurred in 1929.


The following selected list presents some of the important works of Thorstein Veblen:

  • “Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science?” (1897), Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 12 (English)
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) (English)
  • “The Beginning of Ownership” (1904), published in the American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 4 (English)
  • Business Theory (1904) (English)
  • Engineers and the Price System (English)

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