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date: 22 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article emphasizes three of Veblen's most important observations about early twentieth-century capitalism: an interpretation of economic development as the evolution of economic institutions; the importance of consumption, and of factors that drive consumption, for capitalist growth; and the recurring organizational (and ideological) tension between ‘industrial arts and craftsmanship’, on the one hand, and ‘business strategies and salesmanship’, on the other hand. The article then shows how Veblen's insights of a century ago are, if anything, more useful today than they were when he first wrote them. Here the article stresses, in reverse order: the importance of analyzing firms as both producers of goods and services (industrial arts and craftsmanship) and market makers (business strategies and salesmanship); the significance of consumer goods markets for driving contemporary capitalism; and the need to revise economic and sociological theories of capitalism and business enterprise towards Veblen's developmental conception of cumulative causation and away from approaches having equilibrium or productionist biases.

Keywords: Thorstein Veblen, capitalist economy, economic development, organizational tension, salesmanship, business strategy

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