“The Captain”: the travelogues and twisted science of Thorstein Veblen
Guido Giacomo Preparata
Purpose – Thorstein Veblen, though recognized as a “classic” author, has been since his death in 1929 virtually ignored by the public (academic and otherwise). In light of the fact that he may possibly have been the most important social scientist of the modern era, such neglect is a shame that needs to be erased. This article, a conceptual paper, aims to focus on the particular philosophical view that supports the whole edifice of Veblen's social frescoes. Design/methodology/approach – The article argues that the extraordinary tenor of Veblen's economic investigation stems from a semi-hidden fascination of the author with “occult agencies,” that is, with the invisible realms of idolatry, devout belief, and national “genius.” Findings – Veblen, the article maintains, is the first modern, unconfessed, explorer of the spiritual world, whose uncharted domains he mapped for laying the foundations of economic analysis. A radical, unique turn in the history of thought, whose effects, however, have suffered the most profound incomprehension owing to a certain queerness of style: this strangeness was the tormented combination of Veblen's confessed atheism with his instinctive draw towards the praeternatural. Originality/value – This fundamental question surrounding the inner mechanics of Veblen's beautiful political economy – the only social scientist Einstein would read – is presented coherently in this article for the first time.
Philosophy, Social sciences, Social theories, Sociology
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