Article

Thorstein Veblen and American Social Criticism

Joseph Heath

in The Oxford Handbook of American Philosophy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219315
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199219315.003.0013

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Thorstein Veblen and American Social Criticism

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This article aims to identify and explain some of the characteristic features of the style of social criticism that Veblen pioneered. In order to do so, it first sets aside several of the misconceptions that have arisen about his work. The first concerns its generality. Veblen must be understood not merely as a critic of an obsolete “aristocratic” pattern of upper-class consumption, but rather as the progenitor of a general theory of the relationship between class, status, private property, and social inequality. The second major misunderstanding of Veblen's work arises from the assumption that he is engaged in moralizing social criticism. On the contrary, Veblen shared with both Marx and Freud the desire to refrain from making simple value judgments.

Keywords: Thorstein Veblen; social criticism; upper-class consumption; social inequality; value judgments; Freud

Article.  7456 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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