A Man of His Time: Thorstein Veblen and the University of Chicago Darwinists

Abstract

The Darwinian economic theory that Thorstein Veblen proposed and refined while he served as a professor of Political Economy at the University of Chicago from 1891 to 1906 should be assessed in the context of the community of Darwinian scientists and social scientists with whom Veblen worked and lived at Chicago. It is important to identify Veblen as a member of this broad community of Darwinian-inclined philosophers, physiologists, geologists, astronomers, and biologists at Chicago because Veblen’s involvement with this circle suggests that the possible sources of his engagement with Darwinism extend beyond the pragmatists and Continental socialists to whom scholars have typically ascribed Veblen’s Darwinian roots. Additionally, that an extensive community continued to use Darwinian evolutionary theory to construct new models of scientific and social scientific analysis at the turn of the twentieth century, a period during which Darwinism was purportedly in decline, suggests that the “eclipse of Darwinism” narrative has been overstated in literature about Darwinism’s intellectual arc.

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Correspondence to Emilie J. Raymer.

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Raymer, E.J. A Man of His Time: Thorstein Veblen and the University of Chicago Darwinists. J Hist Biol 46, 669–698 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10739-012-9342-8

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Keywords

  • Thorstein Veblen
  • Darwinism
  • Scientific community
  • Economics
  • Nineteenth century
  • Evolution
  • University of Chicago