VEBLEN STUDIES IN JAPAN: A BIBLIOGRAPHY
School of Economics
Kwansei Gakuin University
Presented to the Second Conference of the International
Thorstein Veblen Association, May 30-June 1, 1996
Carleton College In Northfield, Minnesota, U.S.A.
I would like to introduce briefly the Veblen studies in Japan. But the main
purpose of this paper is to prepare a bibliography of them. Actually it is
to give a supplement to Professors J. L. Smich and Rick Tilman, Thorstein Veblen.
A Reference Guide(1985) in which only five articles written in Japanese were
included, and no book on Veblen study in Japan was recorded. 1
I would like to add some explanation and comments to the bibliography: First,
a historical outline of the Veblen studies in Japan. Secondly, five characteristic
aspects and main points of them. And lastly, some problems of the studies in
Before this it might be of use to have some general knowledge regarding the
general trend of the studies on the history of economic thought in Japan, and
especially of those on the history of American economic thought in order to
give suggestions on the position of Veblen studies and the studies on the American
In Japan the study of history of economic thought has been traditionally pretty
active, but the objects of it were centered on the Classical economics and
Marxian economics for a long time, although recently the studies of modern
economics and Japanese economic thought have become popular. And also in Japan
the study of history of economic thought always has meant that of history of
European economic thought as well as in other countries, and the history of
American economic thought has been regarded as one of the special fields like
for example that of Russian economic thought. Notwithstanding the close connection
between the US and Japan since the opening of modern Japan in Meiji period,
it has not given any effective stimulation to the studies of American economic
thought in Japan.
Under these general trends, however, we might say that the studies on Veblen
and the Institutional School are comparatively notable. Except these studies,
the objects of the study in the history of American economic thought were mainly
limited to A. Hamilton., T.Jefferson, `American System' economics, H. George,
and J.B. Clark, etc. 2
History of Veblen studies in Japan might be generally viewed by dividing it
into the following two periods. The first period is the years to 1945 from
1920's, introductory period before the Second World War. The second is the
years to the present from 1945 which is said to be that of a full-scale study
after the Second World War. This period might be subdivided into following
four stages. 1) The beginning of a full-scale study (1945-1960's). 2) The development
of it (1970's-1980's). 3) Its recent further deepening of understanding in
1990's. 4) Veblen studies viewed especially in relation to the studies of the
institutional economics particularly Mitchell and Commons (l980's-1990's).
1 The first period: Introductory period before the Second World War.
This period is remarkable in the introduction of Veblen's thought by translation
of his major four books.
1) The first Japanese translation of the Theory of Leisure Class by S. Ohno
(I-1) in 1924, although it does not say about the positive reason of translation,
nor any commentary was put to it.
2) In 1925 the Vested Interests and the State of the Industrial Arts was translated
by N. Imazu (I-9). This book has many blanks [fuseji] in translation which
show the severe restriction of freedom of press by the government censorship,
because they were regarded to be related to a statement of socialism.
3) The translation of the Theory of Business Enterprise by Y. Inamori (I-4)
in 1931 has no commentary, but its brief explanatory notes gave attention to
Veblen's theory of business cycles and it highly evaluated his theory of chronic
depression as the analysis of the Great Depression of the U.S.
4) In 1940 Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times was translated
by K. Hashimoto(I-13), which has a detailed explanatory introduction (44 pages), "Thorstein
Veblen: Life and Doctrine" at the first time.
Secondly, the introduction of Veblen's thought into Japan was done through
some articles in journals and a part of introductory books on the historical
development of American economic thought (IV-1 5). But in this earlier period,
Y. Furuya's contribution to the introduction of Veblen and the institutional
economics in his distinguished first book on the general history of American
economic thought (1932)(III-l), and especially in his 22 pages article entitled
the Institutional Economics published independently in1932 (111-2) was very
2 The Second Period: A full-scale study after the Second World War
1) After the Second World War, especially since 1960's a full-scale Veblen
study started in Japan. This time again, the first contribution came from the
new translation of Veblen's three main books with the excellent commentary
introduction by T.Ohara. Translation of the Theory of Leisure Class in 1961
(I-3), The Engineers and the Price System in 1962 (I-11), and The Theory of
Business Enterprise in 1965 (I-6). In addition to Ohara's translation, S. Rikui's
translation of the Theory of Leisure Class and a part of the Nature of Peace
and the Terms of Its Perpetuation was published in 1956.
2) Representative Veblen studies in a book form in the stages of this period
are as follows:
The first stage (l945-1960's): Ohara's Veblen(1965) and Social and Economic
Thought of Veblen(1966)(III-5,6), Matsuo's Veblen and His Thought (1966)(III-7),
Sasaki's Economic Methodology: Veblen and Marx (l967)(III-8) and Methodological
Problems of Value Theory (1969)(III-9).
The Second stage(1970's-1980's): Matsumoto's A Study on Veblen(1971)(III-10),
Nakayama's Veblen's System of Thought(l974)(III-11), Sasaki `s Institutionalists
and the Classical Economic Theories(1982)(III-16), Sasano,s An Introduction
to the Study on the American Institutional School: Veblen, Mitchell, and Commons(1982)(III-l7),
Naito's the Structure of Veblen's Thought(1985)(III-19). Among these Nakayama's
work is said to be the most important contribution in this stage.
The third stage (1990's): The most recent Veblen Study in Japan, A Study on
Veblen (III-23) was published by Taka in 1991. In his book he deepened the
understanding of Veblen's thought, and put forward Veblen studies in Japan,
although he focused his analysis on only Veblen's two books, the Theory of
The Leisure Class and the Theory of Business Enterprise.
The fourth stage, in relation to the institutional economics, especially Mitchell,
Commons, J.M. Clark, Ayers, and Galbraith and so on, Veblen studies in Japan
were promoted mainly in 1980's and 1990's by F. Ito's Commons Kenkyu (A Study
on Commons)(l975), Sasaki's Veblen and Mitchell (edited in 1985)(III-20), Institutional
Economics(1991) (III-22), The Development of Institutional Economics(l994)(III-25),
Sasano's W.C. Mitchell, a Institutional Economist(1995)(III-26), and other
members of Nihon University study group on the institutional economics(T. Tsukamoto,
M. Sato (1988)(III-21), H. Saito, T. Okugi,etc.)
III The characteristic aspects of Veblen studies in Japan
1 The first feature viewed from research field and method.
Viewed from research field and method, Veblen studies in Japan might be divided
into the following three types: 1) Studies from the history of economic and
social thought, 2) Studies from the history of business administration, 3)
1) Veblen studies in Japan was first opened and developed as the studies of
the history of economic thought. These have formed the core of the studies.
But the studies on the second stage were those from the approach of the history
of business administration (Matsumoto, Okuda, etc.). This sort of approach
has emphasized the continuity between Veblen and the institutional business
administration. But this evaluation has been criticized. According to the critics,
there is no direct continuity between the two, and yet the attitude toward
capitalism by the two is in a striking contrast. The third sociological studies
(e.g.. Kurahashi, Naito, Isobe, etc.) have taken up Veblen in relation to modern
theory of society. Especially Veblen's theory of revolution by the engineers
was paid attention from the viewpoint of the development of modern theory of
2) The second feature is that viewed from the activities of the academic societies
in Japan that have discussed systematically Veblen's thought. They are the
Society for the History of Economic Thought and the Society for Economic Sociology.
In the one founded in 1950 and has about 800 members, the history of American
economic thought including Veblen has been regarded as a common theme at the
annual meeting only once in 1980, and the Annual Bulletin of the Society has
taken up the history of American economic thought in its survey only in 1967
and 1981. The other society has taken up `Economics andSociology in the Institutional
School' as the common theme and the four papers were published in its Annual
Bulletin as `Veblen and the Institutional School' in 1982.
In addition to these, it is worthy of notice that Professor H. Uzawa gave an
address as the President of the Japan Association of Economics and Econometrics
at the annual meeting of 1989, `Thorstein Veblen and Contemporary Economics'(IV-175).
He emphasized on the similar situation of economics between Veblen's time and
present-day, and took up Veblen's economics as a clue to search for the new
direction of modern economics.
The year 1995 was epoch-making in the Veblen studies in Japan. The Japanese
Society for the History of American Economic Thought was at last founded in
June, and the two papers on the institutional economics were read at the founding
meeting. The activity of the society will be expected to become a core for
the development of the studies on Veblen and the institutional economics in
3) The third feature of Japanese Veblen studies is related to the Veblen studies
in the U.S.. Veblen studies in Japan started from giving attention to the American
Vebien studies. This trend is seen in the following survey articles: For example,
the papers of Ohara (IV-17) and Kawasaki (IV-1l) on 1920's-1945, the papers
of Ohara (IV-33) and Tanaka IV-48) on 1945-1957, and Moriwaki's papers (IV-120,192)
on 1957-1979 and on l990's.
4) The fourth feature: In relation to Marx and Marxian economics. Viewed from
the concrete contents of the Japanese Veblen studies, the most important feature
is the relation to Marx and Marxian economics. The relation between Veblen
and Marx became an important point in the full-scale Veblen studies in Japan,
especially after the Second World War. It might be said that the great attention
to the relation between the two, and how to evaluate Veblen through the comparison
between their thought were the greatest interest to most Veblen scholars in
Japan. It is not too much to say that this feature formed the core of the Veblen
studies in Japan, especially in l950's, 60's, and 70's. These studies focused
on the examination of Veblen's economic and social thought, particularly on
the aspect of socialistic thought. (The most typical studies in this direction
were the studies by Matsuo and Matsmoto).
Matsuo discussed Veblen's thought in full-scale, but he concluded that Veblen
was a socialist one step inferior to Marx. Matsumoto took a more dogmatic position
of Maxian economics. These rather one-sided evaluations by the measure of Marxism
formed an important position. But the limit in understanding Veblen's thought
was not small.
On the other hand Ohara's study is said to be that from a liberal position
although he fundamentally evaluated the position of Marxian economics too.
This liberal line of Veblen study was succeeded basically by Nakayama and Taka,
and it contributed to further understanding of Veblen's thought.
5) The fifth feature: The development of Veblen study through the studies of
the institutional economists. Veblen's economic and social thought have been
studied recently in relation to or in contrast to the studies of the institutional
economists such as Commons, Mitchell, and others. This line of studies gave
more light to Veblen's historical place in the thought from a different viewpoint.
IV The five main points in the Veblen studies in Japan
Veblen studies in Japan has focused on the following five main points. 1) Veblen's
methodology of economics, 2) Veblen and Marx, 3) Veblen's view of capitalism,
4) Veblen's view of revolution by engineers, 5) Veblen's place in the history
of economic and social thought.
1 Veblen's methodology of economics
The Darwinian theory of evolution in Veblen, and his views of positive human
being, and the understanding of the connection between the two have been the
important point of Veblen's methodology. In the full-scale studies by Marxian
position, however, Veblen's views on active humankind through the analysis
of `instincts' was not taken up sufficiently, because of their rather dogmatic
Marxian point of view. On the other hand, Ohara emphasized on the background
of the 20th century American capitalism, and opened the way for further inherent
studies of the uniqueness of Veblen's thought. Then Nakayama took the same
line as Ohara's, and tried to understand more systematically the relation between
the theory of evolution and the views of active humankind, or the relation
between `instincts' and `institutions'.
In the trend of these studies, Sasaki pointed out the primary and essential
importance of Hegelian dialectics rather than Darwinism to understand the nature
of Veblen's methodology. Taka, on the other hand, noticed the ignificant influence
of Spencer on Veblen through the examination of Veblen's articles in his earlier
period. He did not agree with Sasaki's view that Hegelian dialectics was the
essential point to understand Veblen's methodology.
2 Veblen and Marx
Veblen and Marx, as I pointed out, was one of the most distinct feature of
the studies in Japan. Veblen was evaluated especially n comparison with Marx
mainly from the Marxian point of view. They emphasized Marx's influence on
Veblen, and regarded Veblen as a pioneer of Marx studies in the U.S., and stressed
on the close connection between them. They concluded that Veblen was a socialist
one step inferior to Marx. According to Matsuo and Matsumoto, Veblen did not
give the analysis of the basic structure of capitalism in which the surplus
value is produced. This was the most essential defect of Veblen's economic
analysis of capitalism. Taking up this topic, Nakayama stressed the significance
of Veblen's critique of natural-right system which was rather neglected by
the Marxist approach. Nakayama, however, also did not forget to point out the
aspect of the productive powers in Veblen's economic thought. He also emphasized
Veblen's critique of Marx's methodology and his economic theories that were
neglected almost completelyby the Marxists. In this point Ohara noticed Veblen's
unique vlsion of social change in the American background which was different
Contrast to the Marxian evaluation in this point, Sasaki highly evaluated Veblen's
critique of Marx both in his methodology and in his economic theories. His
point was to point out the limits of Marxian economics. But in his studies,
it is said that Veblen's economic theories themselves were not sufficiently
Taka in this point, like Nakayama, noticed the aspect of productive powers
in Veblen too. But he regarded Veblen's socialistic thought as an unique theory
which was constructed to have the possibility of change of social and economic
system, although Veblen recognized the limits of the labor movement and the
movement of socialism in the U.S. at his time.
3Veblen's view of capitalism
Ohara emphasized on Veblen's dualistic analysis of 'industry' and 'business'
as a conflicting structure, and evaluated that Veblen's unique analytical interest
of capitalism was in capitalism on the stage of monopoly.
Matsumoto agreed that Veblen's view of capitalism was one of the critiques
of American monopolistic capitalism. But his final evaluation of Veblen in
this point was the dogmatic criticism from Marxian point of view.
Recognizing this aspect in Veblen's views, Nakayama pointed out that the important
point was how we evaluate Veblen's view of capitalism from the background of
American capitalism at his time. He then could understand Veblen's analysis
as the theory of capitalism that gave an insight into the reality of American
society at that time. Thus moneymaking activity was regarded as the most important
nature of capitalism.
The most weak point of the studies in Japan was, as Taka emphasized, the concrete
economic analysis of American capitalism at Veblen's time. He then took notice
of the importance of Veblen's theory of loan credit and corporation, and paid
a sharp attention to the American credit system, the concrete historical process
of the formation and development of monopoly in the 19th century U.S., and
Veblen's process of theorizing them. According to Taka, Veblen's economic analysis
was to show the necessity of the shift to the stage of monopoly, but also its
most important point was to build up the theory of chronic depression that
was the unique tendency of capital accumulation on the monopolistic stage.
4Veblen's view of revolution by the engineers
Veblen's view of the revolution by the engineers has attracted much attention
especially from the side of Marxian economics. But with regard to the evaluation
of it and its contemporary sifnificance, there are different opinions.
According to Matsumoto who stressed on Marxian position most dogmatically,
Veblen regarded the engineers as a middle class, and the revolution by the
middle class is not the abolition of private property system, nor the real
revolution of economic system as a whole. Emphasizing on its conservativeness,
he said that Veblen's vision of social change was that within the framework
of capitalism. This was not different from the view of the managerial reform.
Matsuo recognized the socialistic direction of revolution close to Marxism
in Veblen's vision of social change, and understood that Veblen's view of revolution
by the engineers was one of the views of the type of the advanced nations which
aims at socialistic revolution in the highly developed American capitalism.
But according to him, the fundamental weak point of Veblen's view of social
revolution is that Veblen could not see through the contradiction about the
engineers themselves, namely the separation of the engineers into management
and labor as management becomes a specialized technique. It was Veblen's mistake
that he regarded the conflict between the enterprisers and the engineers as
the fundamental conflict in the American society.
On the other hand, Nakayama criticized Matsumoto and agreed with Matsuo. He
said that Veblen aimed at the aufheben of the system of private enterprise.
He tried to make clear the difference between Veblen and Marxism in this point
through the systematic understanding of Veblen's thought.
Ohara's understanding in this point is different. Veblen's view of the revolution
by the engineers was understood as that of technocracy. Although he recognized
an aspect of socialistic characteristics in Veblen, he insisted on that it
was a misunderstanding to regard Veblen as a radical socialist or to understand
him as a thinker who expected the radical downfall of the system of absentee
ownership. According to him, Veblen's aim was 'the technical social reform
in a sense'. Veblen was a pioneer of technocracy.
Taka, in his recent study, is critical of Ohara's understanding from technocracy,
but on the other hand he is also critical to Matsuo. Matsuo pointed out Veblen's
high evaluation of Russian Bolshevism and its influence on Veblen's idea of
revolution by the engineers. But Matsuo did not show any concrete demonstration
5Veblen's place in the history of economic and social thought
Veblen's place in the history of economic and social thought has been discussed
mainly from the following two points of view in Japan. The one is from the
Marxian position and the other from the viewpoint of the relation to the Institutional
With regard to the views in relation to Marxism, we might say that there seemed
to be the approach that tried to place Veblen in the history of economic and
social thought in relation to socialistic thought. Matsuo and Matsumoto took
the Marxian position as the absolute measure, and found out socialistic elements
in Veblen's thought. Only by this measure Veblen was given his historical place.
Veblen's critique of Marx and Marxism therefore was misunderstanding. Veblen
is evaluated as a socialist thinker just one step inferior to Marx.
On the other hand, Ohara's evaluation is more elastic and liberal. He did not
lose sight of Veblen's unique significance. Nakayama was also familiar with
Marxian economics, and did not neglect the examination of Veblen's thought
from this point of view. But he did not justify the Marxian evaluation by Matsuo
and Matsmoto. He seemed to evaluate Ohara's approach, although there remains
anibiguous points. Nakayama's fundamental position was to try to evaluate Veblen's
thought more demonstratively along the liberal line of thought like Ohara's.
The evaluation from the viewpoint of the relation to the Institutional School
is also separated in opinion. Matsuo and Matsumoto criticized the evaluation
by J. Dorfman, A.Gruchy, and Harter. Both were against the evaluation that
equates Veblen's socialistic position which aims at the aufheben of private
property system with the position of social reform by the Institutional School.
According to them, the institutional economics has no distinct common methodology
and theory as a school. They insisted on that there were almost no common aspects
between Veblen and the Institutional School. Veblen thought that the decay
of profit-making business enterprise was historically inevitable, and that
capitalism would be replaced by other systems, and therefore he did not have
any interest in the social reform to try to preserve a capitalistic system.
In contrast to this, the institutional economics and business administration
have a strong tendency of social reformism and the characteristics to defend
capitalism. In the works of Matsmoto and Matsuo, and even Nakayama in part,
however, only the gap between the two was emphasized rather one sided without
Ohara's approach on the other hand was again more flexible. He recognized a
certain continuity between Veblen and the institutionalists who received a
great influence from Veblen in a sense. He recognized the radical character
in Veblen's thought, but he concluded from the wider perspective of the history
of American economic thought that Veblen's position was finally that of a social
reform based on his perception of remote possibility of the revolution in the
Based on J. Dorfman's interpretation, J. Nishikawa (IV-57,73,76) and T. Tanaka
(IV-101,106,119,126,III-24) showed the direction to understand the institutional
economics as an intellectual movement' including at least Veblen, Mitchell,
Commons and others, although they recognized the uniqueness of Veblen's thought.
This line of interpretation is followed by Taka too.
On the other hand, the line of the Marxian interpretation is followed by Sasano(III-26).
According to him, Veblen's thought is 'the system beyond the capitalistic system',
but the Institutional School is only a system of reform within the framework
of capitalism'. This point is emphasized as the fundamental contrast between
them. He went further to insist on that the institutional economists distorted
and dwarfed Veblen's system of thought. In order to demonstrate this interpretation
he took up Mitchell's economic thought.
Taka is critical of this view. He pointed out that Veblen was not a so-called
revolutionalist. Veblen's social dynamic analysis suggests to avoid the crises
of monopolistic capitalism when it was left to take its own course, and Veblen's
economics in this sense is seemed to give a theoretical support to the idea
of control and planning that is the one of the features of the institutional
economics. From this point of view, he wrote that Veblen was not without connection
with the idea of social reform, and that Veblen could be certainly placed as
the founder of the institutional economics. Sasano's first book on Mitchell's
economics would have a greater merit in enlarging the study of the institutional
economics including Veblen, if he did not regard the simple distinction between
'the thought within the capitalistic system' and 'the system of thought beyond
that frame' as the absolute criterion.
VSome problems of the Veblen studies in Japan in the future
I would like to conclude this paper by pointing out some problems of the Veblen
studies in Japan in the future.
First, as I pointed out earlier, I have to do so again the weak point of the
studies in the understanding of the 19th and 20th century American social and
economic background itself and also in making clear the wider background of
the history of social and economic thought in the U.S..
Secondly, it is getting more necessary that Veblen's thought should be taken
up as a whole, not from only particular aspects of it such as economic and
social thought, management thought, sociology, etc. The systematic study of
Veblen's thought as a whole is most necessary one.
Thirdly, the extent of the study should be widen, not only to Mitchell but
to Commons and other institutional economists. The development of Institutional
School including Veblen as a whole should be given much more light.
Fourthly, the next important problem is to place the so-called `Neo-Institutionalism'
in the U.S which is said to have its origin in the Neoclassical approach, such
as the contributions by Coase and Williamson, etc.
And lastly, the next important task for the historians of economic thought
is how we evaluate an place the new currents of European institutional economics,
and how we join to this currents and exchange each other the results of research
to criticize the traditional economics, and to develop the analysis and policy
of the present-day economics. The further studies of the American Institutional
School including Veblen should be continued especially in relation to this
new currents of institutional economics in Europe. The re-examination of the
uniqueness, significance, and the limits of the American institutional economics
in the new direction and perspectives is most urgent work. In this direction,
the real significance of Veblen study will be made clear.
TO: Correcting the history about Thorstein Bunde Veblen