MOMENTS IN THE LIFE OF THORSTEIN VEBLEN:
REFINING THE BIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
Russell H. Bartley
Department of History
1. Russell H. Bartley and Sylvia E. Yoneda, "Thorstein Veblen on Washington
Island: Traces of a Life," International Journal of Politics, Culture
and Society 7:4 (1994): 589-613. Hereafter cited as "Traces of a Life."
2. Joseph Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen and His America (NY: Viking, 1934); Thorstein
Veblen, Essays, Reviews and Reports. Previously uncollected writings. Edited & with
an introduction, "New Light on Veblen," by Joseph Dorfman (Clifton,
NJ: Kelley, 1973).
3. Russell H. Bartley and Sylvia E. Yoneda, "Thorstein Veblen on Washington
Island: of books, intellect and personality." Paper presented at the Inaugural
Conference of the International Thorstein Veblen Association, 4-5 February
1994, New School for Social Research, New York, NY.
4 Stephen Edgell, "Thorstein Veblen the Radical Scientist. Discrediting
Discreditable Intellectual History." Paper presented at the 37th Annual
Conference of the Western Social Science Association, 26-29 April 1995, Oakland,
CA, p. 9.
5. Joseph Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen and His America, 7th edition (Clifton,
NJ: Kelley, 1972). All subsequent references are to this corrected edition,
hereafter cited as Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen.
6 Veblen, Essays, Reviews and Reports. Previously Uncollected Writings. Edited
and with an introduction, "New Light on Veblen" (pp. 5-326) by Joseph
Dorfman. Hereafter cited as Dorfman, "New Light."
7. Edgell, too, remarks on the contradictory nature of Dorfman's work; see
loc. cit., p. 8.
8. Bart1ey and Yoneda, "Traces of a Life," p. 604.
9. Edgell, loc. cit., p. 23.
10 Carlton C. Qualey, "Introduction," Thorstein Veblen. The Carleton
College Veblen Seminar Essays. Edited by Carlton C. Qualey (NY & London:
Columbia University Press, 1968), p. 2.
11. David Riesman, Thorstein Vebien. A Critical Reinterpretation (NY: Scribner's,
1960), p. 3.
12 Bernard Rosenberg, The Values of Veblen. A Critical Appraisal. Foreword
by Max Lerner (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1956), p. 1.
13 Melvin D. Brockie, "The Cycle Theories of Veblen and Keynes Today," in:
Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Reappraisal. Lectures and Essays Commemorating
the Hundredth Anniversary of Veblen's Birth. Edited by Douglas F. Dowd (Ithica,
NY: Cornell University Press, 1958), p. 114, n. 3.
14 John P. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery. Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social
Theory (NY: The Seabury Press, 1978), p. 215.
15. Rick Tilman, Thorstein Veblen and His Critics, 1891-1963 (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 4.
16. See Correspondence between Joseph Dorfman and Andrew A. Veblen [1925-1932],
Andrew A. Veblen Papers, A.V395, Box 7, Vols. 42-49, Minnesota Historical Society,
St. Paul, MN. Hereafter cited as Dorfman correspondence, MHS.
17. Joseph Dorfman to Andrew Veblen, New York, 5 March 1930 (Dorfman correspondence,
MHS), p. 1.
18 Andrew Veblen to Joseph Dorfman, Los Angeles, 25 February 1930 (Dorfman
correspondence, MHS), p. 2.
19 Ibid., p. 3.
20 Dorfman to A. Veblen, 5 March 1930, p. 5.
21 Ibid., p. lb.
22 Andrew Veblen to Joseph Dorfman, Los Angeles, 13 March 1930 (Dorfman correspondence,
MHS), p. 5.
23. Ibid., p. 4.
24. Ibid., p. 5.
25. Dorfman, "New Light," pp. 22-23, n. 29. One hundred and sixty-seven
pages later, he notes Hans Otto Storm's recollection of a conversation in which
Veblen had told him "that he was twelve years old before he learned to
speak English" [p. 190, n. 222], which would, of course, negate Dorfman's
original thesis. More to the point, Dorfman fails to consider Veblen's own
personal standard of language mastery, which likely differed from popular measures
of fluency; an ability to communicate easily with childhood playmates, as established
by the testimony of Veblen's older brother, may not have equated to English-language
proficiency in the mind of the mature scholar.
26. A. Veblen to Dorfman, 13 March 1930, pp. 3, 4.
27. Ibid., p. 4.
28 "It seems to me," Andrew Veblen lamented after five years of correspondence
with Dorfman, "that the lot of time I have given to giving you authentic
information has been spent absolutely to no purpose. You entirely ignore my
statements; and even twist a few things into significations that it seems to
me you must know are the opposite of what I plainly indicated... It is hard
for me to see why I should not heartily regret that I ever paid any attention
to your appeals for assistance... The truth is that I despair of doing anything
at all that can be helpful, unless you abandon the ideas that you have made
fundamental. Of course it does not make things any better to add that I believe
you have done the best you can and that your aim is praiseworthy. I do not
share the view that your project is 'nefarious' (as I have seen it characterized).
I have proved my confidence in your honesty of purpose in no uncertain manner,
as the mass of information you have received from me testifies."
With a serenity and poise striking by their absence in Andrew's younger correspondent,
he closes this lengthy missive by reassuring Dorfman that: "If you think
there is any use in it, why of course I will not refuse to listen to you, and
I will do anything in my power to be helpful. I am not even stipulating that
I must be convinced that there is any use of it or any hope of use in it. In
spite of my disapointment I adhere to the idea the 'while there is life there
is hope'." [A. Veb1en to Dorfman, 13(15) March 1930, p. 6.]
While no one showed greater interest in Dorfman's work, followed it more closely
or offered more information, advice and constructive criticism than Andrew
Veblen, it is his prominent East Coast mentors -- Virgil Jordan, Rexford Guy
Tugwell, Wesley Clair Mitchell and Alvin Johnson -- whom Dorfman recognizes
by name in the preface to the published book. Like the subject of that book,
he consigns Andrew, the distinguished professor from the hinterand, to the
uncouth margins of American civilization. How heavily Dorfman's own childhood
in Romanovska, Russia, would appear to have weighed!
29 Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen, p. 499.
30 Riesman, Thorstein Veblen, p. 23.
31. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery, p. 34.
32. Franco Ferrarotti, commentary on paper presented by Russell Bartley and
Sylvia Yoneda ["Thorstein Veblen on Washington Island"], New School
for Social Research, 4 February 1994.
33. Diggins, op. cit., p. 37.
34. Ibid., p. 169.
35. Ibid., p. 161.
36. Richard J. Storr, Harper's University. The Beginnings. A History of the
University of Chicago (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press,
1966), pp. 223-224.
37. Dorfman, "New Light," p. 97.
38. David Tylden-Wright, Anatole France (NY: Walker and Company, 1967), p.
39. Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen, pp. 253-254.
40. Diggins, op. cit., p. 169.
41. Dorfman, "New Light," p. 97.
42. Tylden-Wright, op. cit., p. 277.
43. Ibid., pp. 277-278.
44. Dorfman, "New Light," p. 97. As with so many of Dorfman's references,
especially in the 1934 volume, he gives no clue as to where the inscribed copy
of The Theory of Business Enterprise can be found. The reader is obliged to
take Dorfman's word on the matter, an unacceptable proposition and a further
violation of the scholarly canon.
45. Diggins, op. cit., p. 169.
46. Veblen to Loeb, Chicago, 10 February 1905. Jacques Loeb Papers (1859-1924).
Correspondence, Manuscript Division, U.S. Library of Congress, Washington,
47. Ibid., pp., 1-2.
48 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
49. Oscar Triggs published two books while he and Veblen were on the University
of Chicago faculty together, both treating topics of interest to Veblen: Chapters
in the History of the Arts and Crafts Movement (Chicago: The Bohemia Guild
of the Industrial Art League, 1902), an elegantly produced volume reviewed
critically but sympathetically by Veblen in The Journal of Political Economy,
vol. 11 (December 1902 - September 1903): 108-111; and The Changing Order.
A Study of Democracy (Chicago: Triggs, 1905; Charles H. Kerr, 1906). Both men
shared an interest in the writings of Carlyle, Ruskin and Morris, examined
at length in these two volumes.
50. Dorfman, "New Light," p. 141, n. 179a.
51. "Professors Resign; Mystery on Midway," The Chicago Record Herald
(Wednesday Morning, 20 June 1906): 1, 4.
53. Max Lerner (ed.), The Portable Veblen (NY: Viking, 1967), p.10.
54. John Kenneth Galbraith, The Culture of Contentment (Boston, NY & London:
Houghton Mifflin, 1992), p. 81 n.2.
55. Lerner, op. cit., p. 10.
56. Diggins, op. cit., p. 33.
57. Robert L. Heilbroner. The Worldly Philosophers. The Lives, times, and ideas
of the great economic thinkers, 5th edition (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1980),
58. Diggins, op. cit., p. 33.
59. Heilbroner, op. cit., pp. 215-216.
60. Veblen to Huebsch, Detroit Harbor, Wisconsin, 25 July 1923. Benjamin W.
Huebsch Papers (1876-1964), Box 28. Manuscripts Department, U.S. Library of
61. Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen, insert between pp. 238 & 239.
62. Blanca Will, niece of Stanford engineering professor and Veblen colleague
Guido Marx, produced the slightly less than life-size bronze bust while Veblen
was at the New School for Social Research, where it was displayed for an indeterminate
period of time, initially in the faculty lounge, then in the New School's library.
At some point, it was consigned to a basement storage area and subsequently
vanished altogether. After a diligent search in early 1994, Professor Arthur
Vidich located the missing bust in the Washington, D.C. home of Joseph Dorfman's
daughter, Susan Dorfman Jones, who in March of that year kindly allowed Sylvia
to photograph it. At an uncertain date and in a not entirely transparent manner,
according to Mrs. Jones, the bust had come into the possession of her father's
publisher, Augustus H. Kelley, who in his turn gifted it to her father. The
bust now bears a brass plate affixed to its base and inscribed: "To Joseph
Dorfman from Augustus M. Kelley, 1975."
63 Veblen Collection, Carleton College Archives, Northfield,
TO: VEBLEN FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
TO: Correcting the history about Thorstein Bunde Veblen