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Торстейн Бунде Веблен
(1857-1929)
Thorstein Bunde Veblen
 
Источник: Journal of Economic Issues, Jun91, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p421, 8p
Loader, Colin & Waddoups, Jeffrey
THORSTEIN VEBLEN, WERNER SOMBART AND THE PERIODIZATION OF HISTORY
It is often alleged that the German historical school and the American institutional school possess a number of doctrinal and theoretical similarities.[1] Since ideas of figures within each of these schools are not homogeneous, a comparison in a short piece such as this is best focused on specific individuals. We have chosen to compare the work of a pioneer in institutional economics. Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), with one of the second generation of the historical school, Werner Sombart (1863-1941).[2] As the dates indicate, the two were contemporaries, having published their first major works within a year of each other.[3] We will show that the two men move from similar premises in markedly different directions.
Both men offered critiques of the capitalist present supported by a schema of historical development, which posited a past golden age in pre-industrial Europe. Crucial to both critiques was an attempt to place modern capitalism in a larger historical context. This meant placing the periodization of the historical process into a series of epochs[4]--a nonmaterial (spiritual/instinctual) realm that became actualized through institutional structures. The way back to the golden age, however, would be traversed along two very different paths--for Veblen, it would mean a reiteration of his commitment to egalitarianism, for Sombart, a movement toward fascism.
Spirit and Instinct
Sombart wrote that economic epochs could be delineated by discernible types of character consisting of two elements, a spirit and a set of material forms. The spirit, defined as "the sum total of the purposes, motives, and principles which determine man's behaviour in economic life"[5] was more important than material forms, for its defined the era. Spirit, however, was not all-powerful; in order to form life in its image, certain conditions had to be present. Economic institutions, technology, material conditions, certain types of subjects and their wills all were necessary conditions for the "actualization" of spirit. There was some confusion in Sombart's writings regarding causal priority of spirit and material forces. Sometimes he wrote of spirit[6] creating material forms; at other times of material forms actualizing spirit; sometimes the spirit seemed to precede the new economic institutions; at other times it seemed to follow. However, it is clear that the economic system, or epoch, was defined by its spirit.
Veblen also wrote of "spirit," but he defined it as "[t]he complement of instinctive dispositions."[7] The peaceful instincts mentioned were the instinct of workmanship, the parental bent, the instinct of idle curiosity, while the predatory instincts were divided up into their sporting and pecuniary components. Veblen also stated that "all instinctive action is intelligent and teleological,"[8] indicating an affinity of his configuration of instincts with Sombart's spirit as a set of dominant "purposes, motives and principles" that gave meaning to his definition of historical epochs. Veblen's use of the concept, "spirit," was less central to his analysis than was the case for Sombart. The central element was, rather, the cumulatively changing institutional structure.
The spiritual/instinctual elements appeared in different ratios in the various epochs and racial groups in the two men's systems. For Sombart the whole (spirit) was more important, while the component (instinct) was more important for Veblen. An additional difference is that, for Veblen, the wholes were largely historical, while the components were immutable. For Sombart, on the other hand, both the wholes and the components (constituent elements) were historical (although not always coterminous).
Both men denied that epochs were homegeneous, although both believed an epoch could be dominated by a certain spirit/instinct. Sombart wrote that when a spirit was clearly dominant, one could speak o a "pure" or "high" period. In addition to these pure epochs there were "mixed" epochs, which were periods of transition between high epochs. These were termed either "early" or "late" depending on whether the perspective was past- or future-oriented. Thus the period from the Renaissance to the end of the eighteenth century was defined as early capitalism." While Veblen did not use the adjectives "early" and "late," he believed that periods such as the handicraft era (which chronologically approximated Sombart's early capitalist period) combined instincts that were dominant in earlier or later periods.[10]
Veblen's instincts and Sombart's spiritual elements also show remarkable structural similarities. Of the instincts postulated by Veblen, three are especially relevant to a comparison with Sombart's "spirit": the parental bent, the instinct of workmanship, and the predatory instincts. The parental bent was an instinct that went beyond having and nurturing children; it was essentially a communal instinct, which placed the common good above all else, and which disapproved of "wasteful and useless living." The instinct of workmanship promoted the desire to do a task thoroughly and well, producing a pride in the quality of work done. Veblen believed it was primarily responsible for the technical progress of humankind.[11] The parental bent and an uncontaminated instinct of workmanship were seen as positive forces (which furthered the generic ends of life) in contrast to the predatory instinct, which represented aggression--the will to compete, to subordinate, to conquer. In its sporting form, the predatory instinct gave rise especially to military activities and in its pecuniary form, to business competition and the desire to accumulate wealth and power.[12]
For Sombart, there were two primary spirits: precapitalist, dominated by the idea of sustenance, and the capitalist, which contained the principles of both accumulation (the profit motive) and rational calculation. The idea of sustenance and its extension, the principle of meeting needs, were both concerned with consumption; in the former, consumption to survive, in the latter, consumption to meet needs appropriate to one's status. In its primitive form, the idea of sustenance had the same concern for communal survival as Veblen's parental bent. The discrepancy in status characterizing more complex forms of economic organization resulted from the emergence of a military, land-owning elite, whose outlook was not unlike that defined by Veblen's predatory instinct. Within the precapitalist spirit, this aggressive orientation was subordinate to the idea of sustenance, as was craft ethic that was very to Veblen's instinct of workmanship. An important difference was that, unlike the latter, Sombart's craft ethic was oriented towards stasis, and therefore hindered rather than promoted the development of technology.[13]
Sombart's capitalist was embodied by the entrepreneur (Unternehmer), whose adventurous activities often in pursuit of wealth contradicted the stasis inherent in the idea of sustenance. The drive for accumulation embodied in sombart's entrepreneur was similar to Veblen's predatory instinct.[14] The principle of rational calculation also embodied in sombart's entrepreneur--with its objectification of the subjective elements of the work process, its instrumentality, its reduction of quality to calculable quantification in the form of money-- had no direct equivalent in Veblen's set of instincts. For Veblen, these characteristics were just a part of a contaminated manifestation of the instinct of workmanship in a capitalist institutional structure.
Economic Epochs
Using spirit and instinct as central concepts in their periodization of economic history, Sombart and veblen each delineated a set of economic stages, which cannot be directly to one another. Veblen's stages were more anthropological and less historically defined, applying to humankind's entire tenure on earth. (One and possibly two of his stages were prehistorical.) Sombart's stages were strictly historical, beginning with the European Middle Ages. (He did not address at any length the situations of prehistoric and ancient peoples.) Despite this difference, it will be argued that the two sets demonstrate important structural similarities. The configuration of spiritual/instinctual elements in the different stages, however, were weighted in such a way as to make the two men's systems incompatible.
Veblen's first three economic stages occupied the sane structural, but not chronological, positions as Sombart's first two stages and their subdivision. Veblen's first stage was "primitive savagery," characterized by stasis, communal ownership, and the parental bent. It was an economically inefficient and technologically stagnant period due to an anthropomorphic, rather than scientific, view of view of nature,[15]
This stage demonstrated qualities similar to an element of Sombart's first stage, precapitalist Europe. That element, the village community, was dominated by the idea of sustenance whose similarity to the parental bent has already been noted. In addition, the characteristics of stasis, communal ownership, a nonscientific view of nature ("empirical" and "traditional") and a lack of technological advancement were also present.[16]
Veblen's second stage, barbarism, saw the beginning of predatory culture. Here society was dominated by exploitative and warlike institutions, such as those the feudal nobility in Europe. Economic surplus, resulting from technological improvement, became the target of aggressive barbarian communities as they raided one another. Surplus also stratified communities internally by providing the means for "invidious distinction" based on command over the economic surplus.[17] A second element of Sombart's precapitalist stage, the seigniorial economy, was akin to barbarism and was also identified with the feudal nobility of Europe. This stage was also characterized by an economic surplus controlled by the lord, and an aggressive, military spirit.[18]
The third stage of Veblen, the handicraft era, witnessed the emergence of a more pervasive and less contaminated form of the instinct of workmanship, although predatory instincts of barbarism had not disappeared. This stage was characterized by the individual craftsman, who embodied all elements of the production process. He as the owner of his shop and tools and at the same time provided the labor power necessary to carry out production. The individual craftsman demonstrated a pride in his workmanship, which he saw as statement of his own work. He was willing to make the necessary technological adjustment to modify work as conditions demanded. Technological innovation, however to lead the era's demise, for as markets widened, fueled by the development of transportation and communication technologies a division of labor between pecuniary and productive pursuits arose. This development resulted in the individual placing his own interests over those of the community and the reemergence of pecuniary/ predatory instinct dominance and a contamination of the instinct of workmanship. This domination would reach its fullest development in the fourth stage of the "machine era."[19]
Sombart portrayed the handicraft element of the precapitalist epoch in terms very similar to Veblen's. He also emphasized that the handicraft system was more "natural," more communal, and conductive to the creative elements of the individual's personality. A major difference, as noted above, was that Sombart believed that the handicraft system inclined to a stasis found in the village economy, whereas, Veblen saw the predatory instinct retarding the development of technological efficiency and scientific insight, Sombart saw it promoting those factors. This can be seen in his assertion that the rise of cities stemmed not from the productive forces that Veblen identified with the instinct of workmanship, but from consumption demands of the predatory class. The latter were the "city founders;" the craftsmen and traders were simply the "city fillers" who serviced the formers' needs.[20]
Like Veblen, Sombart wrote that the impetus for the development of capitalism came from the adventurous, enterprising, predatory element of the earlier period. Entrepreneur were risk takers, those who sought to accumulate wealth and power by challenging the status quo. They range from conquerors to economic speculators. Accordingly, Sombart noted the association of trade with piracy in the early capitalist period. He presented this group as if they were the heirs of the feudal nobility with its "heroic" convictions.[21]
In other capitalists, the bourgeois spirit predominated, implying a lack of "heroism." Instead, they possessed the organizational ability to rationally plan steps toward a goal, thriftiness, an insistence on the profitable expenditure of time and the ability to calculate, to reduce things to quantities. Rather than forcing people to do their bidding, they convinced strangers to enter into contracts with them and to buy their products. This group emerged not from the nobility but from the handicraft system.[22]
While the early capitalist contained both the adventurous and calculating elements, the entrepreneurial spirit was the stronger. The bourgeois spirit was partially held in check by the traditional convictions and form of the guilds. As capitalism developed during its early period, the bourgeois spirit became stronger, so that by the epoch of high capitalism it had come to dominated the entrepreneurial spirit.[23]
Veblen's machine age and Sombart's high capitalist epoch began in the last half of the eighteenth century. Both saw these stages as characterized by artificial (as opposed to natural), impersonal relationships in which large-scale productive process reduced all qualitative standards to the simple quantitative standard of increased output for more money.
Veblen believed that the machine age brought standardization and mechanistic discipline, especially to the working class. The impersonal working of the system, the attention to cause and effect, resulted in loss of the personal qualities of work. The rationalities of a reified world were oblivious to more conventional standards of morality, truth, and beauty. While the presence of the machine was ubiquitous, the business classes maintained their pecuniary outlook. The standardized regimentation of the working classes and the pecuniary instincts of the businessman were complementary in the machine age.[24]
Sombart wrote that the high capitalist period, like the high precapitalist period, was static, but its stasis was enforced through science, self-interest and flexibility rather than through the rigid traditions of the community. It is important to note the decline of the entrepreneurial spirit in high capitalism. The reified mechanism demonstrated non of the dynamic adventurism that characterized the emergence of capitalism. Thus, while Veblen's machine age was characterized by the dominance of the predatory instinct over all others, Sombart saw the decline of its analogous spiritual element in high capitalism.[25]
Conclusion
Like Veblen, sombart distinguished two aspects of modern capitalism that were traced to the mobility and the artisanry respectively. Sombart also connected the predatory aspect of the nobility with consumption, especially luxury consumption. Unlike Veblen, however, he viewed the nobility positively, rather than simply as parasites. They were the real creators of capitalism through their will to power and wealth. They were the heroes. While Sombart, like Veblen, extolled the virtues of the producing artisan, he saw them giving way to the negative aspect of the modern capitalist system. Thus, the very element Veblen condemned as predatory and parasitic in machine age capitalism was held out by Sombart as the only hope for the future.
As a remedy for the ills of modern capitalism, Veblen looked to the instinct as they were expressed in a past golden age while Sombart became interested in a new breed of heroes--the socialist warriors. In revising Socialism and the Social Movement in 1919, he added a chapter describing Russian Bolshevism as a fighting movement that was preventing socialism from being coopted by capitalism and restoring its heroic spirit. When Bolshevism failed him, him the extreme nationalism that he displayed in Traders and Heroes moved him into the cap of the new "heroism," that of National Socialism.[26]
Veblen's evolutionary perspective and his cultural lag theory stressed the likelihood of atavistic continuities and left him uncertain of the future because blind drift was as likely an outcome as any. In his last years, while Sombart took refuge in Nazi apologetics, Veblen, though adhering to egalitarian ideas and an open society, became increasing pessimistic regarding the possibilities of throwing off the yoke of the vested interests.[27]
Notes
[1.] For example, cf. Lev E. Dobriansky, Veblenism: A New Critique (Washington, D. C.: Public Affairs Press, (1975), pp. 171-73; David Reisman, Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Interpretation (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960) pp. 155-56; Joseph Dorfman, Thorstein Veblen and His America (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966) pp. 147, 156, 212-13, 323.
[2.] For Sombart's place in the German Historical School, see Dieter Lindenlaub, Richtungkampfe im Verein fur Soziapolitik (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1967) pp. 314-37; Arthur Mitzman, Sociology and Estrangement (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973, 135-264; Joseph Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press. 1954) pp. 815-18.
[3.] Cf. Veblen, Essays, Reviews and Reports, ed. Joseph Dorfman (clifton, N.J.: August M. Kelley. 1973) pp. 463-65, 498-506, 529-32; sombart, Luxury and Capitalism, trans, W.R. Dittmar (An Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967), p. 61. In a note to Wesley Mitchell, Sombart wrote that Mitchell and Veblen were exceptions to the rule of America economists who wander along completely antiquated paths. Mitchell Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York. Also cf. Arthur K. Davis, Thorstein Veblen's Social Theory (New York: Arno Press, 1980), pp. 417-32; Carle c. Zimmerman, Consumption and Standards of Living, (New York: Van Nostrand, 1936), pp. 498-520.
[4.] Leo Rogin, "Werner Sombart and the Natural Science Method," Journal of Political Economy, 41 (1933): 224; Sombart, Der moderne Kapitalismus second edition (Munich and Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1928) vol. I, p. xx.
[5.] Sombart, "Economic Theory and Economic History," The Economic History Review 2 (1929): 14.
[6.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. I pp. 13-14, vol. II, p. 3; Sombart, Die deutsche Volkwirtschaft im neuzehnten Jahrhundert, 8th ed. (Darmstadt: Wissenchaftliche Buchgemeinschaft, 1954) p. 44.
[7.] Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts (new York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1964), p. 15.
[8.] Ibid., p. 32.
[9.] Sombart, Modern Kapitalismus, vol. I p. 26, pp. 3-5.
[10.] Sombart, Instinct, pp. 231-98.
[11.] Ibid., pp. 27,35.
[12.] Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, (New York: New American Library, 1912) pp. 165-76.
[13.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. I, pp. 14, 31-34; Sombart, The Quintessence of Capitalism, trans. and ed. M. Epstein (New York: Howard Fertig, 1967) pp. 13-21.
[14.] Sombart, Quintessence, pp. 51-55.
[15.] Veblen, Instinct, p. 74.
[16.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. I, 36-37.
[17.] Veblen, Instinct, p. 32.
[18.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. I p. 66.
[19.] Veblen, Instinct, pp. 344-45.
[20.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. I pp. 131, 159, 190-97, 737.
[21.] Ibid., vol. II pp. 23-28; Quintessence, pp. 51-53.
[22.] Sombart, Moderne Kapitalismus, vol. II, pp. 31-34; Quintessence pp. 53-55.
[23.] Sombart, Quintessence pp. 172-180.
[24.] Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise (new York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904) chapts. 2,4.
[25.] Sombart, Quintessence pp. 344-46, 358.
[26.] Sombart, Sozialismus und soziale Bewegung, 7th edition (Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1919) 190-91; Sombart, Handler und Helden (Munich: Duncker und Humblot. 1915).
[27.] Cf Veblen Absentee Ownership (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1923) pp. 398-445.
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