Thorstein Bunde Veblen

Thorstein Bunde Veblen

Cato, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, USA
Death 3 Aug 1929 (aged 72)
Menlo Park, San Mateo County, California, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, Specifically: Cremated- Ashes scattered at sea
Memorial ID 148249756 · View Source
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Thorstein Bunde Veblen (born Torsten Bunde Veblen; July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist, and leader of the institutional economics movement. Veblen is credited for the main technical principle used by institutional economists, known as the Veblenian dichotomy. It is a distinction between what Veblen called "institutions" and "technology".[3] Besides his technical work, Veblen was a popular and witty critic of capitalism, as illustrated by his best-known book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).

Veblen is famous in the history of economic thought for combining a Darwinian evolutionary perspective with his new institutionalist approach to economic analysis. He combined sociology with economics in his masterpiece, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), where he argued that there was a fundamental split in society between those who make their way via exploitation and those who make their way via industry. In hunter-gatherer societies, this was the difference between the hunter and the gatherer in the tribe, but in feudalism, it became the difference between the landed gentry and the indentured servant. In society's progressively modernized forms, those with the power to exploit are known as the "leisure class", defined by a commitment to demonstrations of idleness and a lack of productive economic activity. Veblen maintains that as societies mature, conspicuous leisure gives way to "conspicuous consumption". Both are performed to demonstrate wealth or mark social status.

While Veblen was sympathetic to state ownership of industry, he did not support labor movements of the time. Scholars mostly disagree about the extent to which Veblen's views are compatible with Marxism,[4] socialism, or anarchism. Veblen believed that technological developments would eventually lead to a socialist economy, but his views on socialism and the nature of the evolutionary process of economics differed sharply from Karl Marx's. While Marx saw socialism as the immediate precursor to communism and the ultimate goal for civilization to be achieved by the working class, Veblen saw socialism as an intermediate phase in an ongoing evolutionary process in society that would arise due to natural decay of the business enterprise system.

As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, Veblen made sweeping attacks on production for profit, and the emphasis on the wasteful role of consumption for status found within many of his works greatly influenced socialist thinkers and engineers who sought a non-Marxist critique of capitalism.


Father: Thomas Anderson Veblen (carpenter)
Mother: Kari Bunde Veblen
Brother: Anders Thomasson Veblen (b. 1845)
Brother: Andrew A. Veblen (b. 1848, d. 1932)
Sister: Beret Jane Veblen Viken ("Betsey", b. 10-Dec-1850, d. 10-Jan-1931)
Brother: Ostein A. Veblen ("Orson", b. 1853, d. 1-Jun-1928)
Sister: Emily Veblen Olsen (b. 1855, d. 1953)
Sister: Mary Veblen Hougen (b. 1859)
Brother: Thomas A. Veblen, Jr. (b. 1862, d. 1885)
Brother: John Edward Veblen (b. 1864, d. 1865)
Brother: John Edward Veblen II (b. 1866, d. 1949)
Sister: Hannah Veblen Hanson (b. 1868)
Brother: Oscar William Veblen (b. 1870)
Wife: Ellen May Rolfe (m. 10-Apr-1888, div. 20-Jan-1912, d. May-1926)
Wife: Ann Fessenden Bradley ("Babe", m. 17-Jun-1914, d. 8-Oct-1920)
Daughter: Becky Veblen Meyers (stepdaughter, b. 1901, d. 1994)
Daughter: Ann B. Sims (stepdaughter, b. 13-Feb-1903, d. Apr-1986)


He passed away on August 3, 1929, with records showing heart disease as a cause of death.

After Veblen's death, on August 3, 1929, a paper was
found, unsigned, which he had written in pencil probably
within a week of his death:
It is also my wish, in case of death, to be cremated, if it can conveniently
be done, as expeditiously and inexpensively as may be, without
ritual or ceremony of any kind; that my ashes be thrown into the
sea, or into some sizable stream running to the sea; that no tombstone,
slab, epitaph, effigy, tablet, inscription, or monument of any name or
nature, be set up in my memory or name in any place or at any time;
that no obituary, memorial, portrait, or biography of me, nor any letters
written to or by me be printed or published, or in any way
reproduced, copied or circulated.


Wisconsin Historical Marker # 176 transcription:

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  • Created by: Kent Gebhard
  • Added: 24 Jun 2015
  • Find a Grave Memorial 148249756
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thorstein Bunde Veblen (30 Jul 1857–3 Aug 1929), Find a Grave Memorial no. 148249756, ; Maintained by Kent Gebhard (contributor 47001358) Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, who reports a Cremated- Ashes scattered at sea.