For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Veblen's Theory of Evolution and the Instinct of Workmanship"

by Taka, T (2005)


Since his first, harsh attack on the pre-Darwinian assumptions of mainstream economics, Thorstein B. Veblen has been known as a founding advocate of a Darwinian evolutionary science of economics. Nonetheless, there is still little consensus even among Veblen scholars regarding either his methods of evolutionary science or his theory of evolution. This paper shows Veblen's evolutionary methods to be close to modern biological methodology, as in K. Lorenz's ethology and E. Myer's evolutionary synthesis. The accumulative process of evolution can be interpreted as a complicated interaction between instinct and purposeful emulation. The former is necessary for the preservation and prosperity of the species, and the latter is useful in maintaining stability in social order. I also examine the multilayered structure of Veblen's concept of human nature - old norms do not die out and may be revived-, his idea that cultural evolution accompanies reversions, and the ways in which his evolutionary economics is a composite science made up of economic anthropology and a biological theory of evolution.


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