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360 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY In sum, as is perhaps appropriate with such a book, one ends it in much the same state of mind as one is in when finishing a first reading of Hegel--convinced that there may be something worthwhile in Hegel's account of mind as" self-conscious activity," and something to his general attempt to synthesize various aspects of Greek and German philosophy in one whole, but still puzzled about exactly how this is to be accomplisl'/edand especially how it is to be defended. Thus, to those already somewhat sympathetic to things Hegelian, this book will offer useful summaries of his position and occasional insights into it. Those not so 'nclined are bound to be more than slightly bothered by such admissions as, "Der Mensch ist Geist-das Wesen des Geistes ist, 'sich zu offenbaren'--in Menschen offenbart Gott sich selbst-durch Gott weiss der Mensch von Ganzen, weil er von Gott weiss: mehr sagt uns Hegel nicht. Wir k/)nnen versuchen, seine Motive zu 'klaren,' aber fiber des 'Wie' dieses Erfassens bleiben wir stumm" (p. 252). ROBERT B. PIPPIN University of California, San Diego Thorstein Veblen and the Institutionalists: A Study in the Social Philosophy of Economics. By David Seckler. Foreward by Lord Robbins. (Boulder, Colorado: The London School of Economics and Political Science, Colorado Associated University Press, 1975. Pp. xvi + 160. $10.00) David Seckler's wise and charming book on the origins of institutional economics appears at a fortunate time, for it chronicles an era in the development of American social theory that has many parallels with the present. Just as Veblen and the"institutionalists" did battle with a theologically grounded utilitarianism in the interests of an empirical and humanistic discipline , so contemporary social scientists are regrouping under the time-honored banner of "political economy" to challenge abstract models of econometrics and social systems analysis in favor of historical-structural approaches. As Seckler remarks in his introduction, "not only did institutionalism arise out of an essentially similar milieu in the first two decades of this century, but its platform of protest against what may be called the mainstream economics of its day was very similar to contemporary complaints..... [For example, the institutionalists] were concerned with economists' preoccupation with the perfectly competitive model and free trade while the world was becoming dominated by big business and imperialism" (p. 1). Similar concern in the 1970s with the chasms separating microeconomics (not to mention micro-sociology-political science, etc.) and monopoly capital, neocolonialism, and multinational corporations lends credence to the observation that the works of the institutionalists often "sound like the latest revelations of the contemporary underground in economics" (p. 2). What, then, are the lessons of history? Why did the institutionalists fail to dapture the high ground of American economics or to transmit their eminently sociological analyses to related disciplines? Seckler takes up this question in his first chapter noting that while there is no difficulty in identifying who the major institutionalists were, considerable ambiguity surrounds the issue of exactly what institutionalism stood for as a coherent doctrine "apart from a common antipathy to the classical or neoclassical tradition"--as Lord Robbins puts it in his foreword. Although the author's sentiments are with institutionalism, he argues candidly that it was not a "genuine school" in Schumpeter's sense of one master, one doctrine, a core, and so forth; but, in fact, it was a set of often incompatible doctrines. The first of several circumstances explaining this is that institutionalism contained two separate camps, one represented by Veblen the intellectual and literary figure, the other by John Rogers Commons the academic BOOK REVIEWS 361 activist and advisor to scores of public and private bodies. Moreover, Veblen's student Wesley Clair Michell took one line of his mentor's thinking and established a quantitative tradition loosely associated with institutionalism. But Seckler's most fundamental explanation for the incoherence of institutionalism is the fact that Veblen himself held to two incompatible theories. There were two Veblens. Veblen the behaviorist sought to establish a methodological foundation for the study of "actual" human behavior. Veblen the humanist found a fundamental flaw in the hedonistic premise of behaviorism and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 360-362
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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