Freethought of the Day

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There are 1 entries for this date: Thorstein Veblen
Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen

On this date in 1857, Thorstein Veblen was born on a farm in Valders, Wisconsin. Veblen conducted his undergrad studies at Carleton College, did post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins and earned his Ph.D. at Yale in 1884. He taught at a variety of schools, including the University of Chicago, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin. His book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) is the most famous of the nine he wrote. Many progressives, ranging from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Margaret Sanger, were strongly influenced by it.

In it Veblen introduced the term "conspicuous consumption" and devoted a long chapter titled "Devout Observances" to deconstructing religion. Veblen also studied the place of science in civilization. While an evolutionist, he repudiated the unscientific application of evolution known as social Darwinism. Raised Lutheran, he was often denounced for his skepticism and was rejected when he applied for a teaching job at St. Olaf College, a Lutheran school in Minnesota. It has been averred that Veblen's sole political act was to sign a petition urging Wisconsin Sen. Robert La Follette of the Progressive Party to run for president. D. 1929.

"Indeed, it is becoming somewhat of a commonplace with observers of criminal life in European communities that the criminal and dissolute classes are, if anything, rather more devout, and more naïvely so, than the average of the population."

—Veblen, "The Theory of the Leisure Class," p. 320 (1899)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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