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Торстейн Бунде Веблен
Thorstein Bunde Veblen
Источник: Journal of Economic Issues, Sep96, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p667, 17p
Baragar, Fletcher
Scholars interested in the significance of the ideas of Thorstein Veblen have managed to generate a substantial amount of research, which, when considered as a whole, supports the claim that Veblen's intellectual influence on subsequent generations of economists was anything but trivial. Wesley C. Mitchell, Clarence Ayres, J. Fagg Foster, Warren J. Samuels, Allan Gruchy, and John Kenneth Galbraith are only some of the more notable luminaries whose works are widely cited as evidence of the enduring power and insight of Veblen's own contributions. However, the literature expressly devoted to the articulation of this Veblenian legacy has, as the names cited above might intimate, a distinct American focus. Indeed, the school of thought that most explicitly acknowledges some Veblenian ancestry is at times referred to as "American institutionalism," with its practitioners being called "American institutionalists."[1] Thus, while establishing the validity and significance of the Veblen-institutionalist lineage, the scholarship that has examined this connection nonetheless exhibits a predisposition, or bias, toward the consideration of the work of American economists and social scientists. Consequently, sustained investigations of other channels through which the effect of Veblen's work may have been felt are rare.[2] As a specific case in point, a survey of that literature yields scant evidence that any substantive portion of the intellectual resources hitherto mobilized by Veblenian and institutionalist scholars has been allocated for the consideration of the work of the Canadian economist Harold Innis.
On the other hand, Canadian scholars interested in the work of Innis have frequently invoked the name of Veblen in their efforts to grasp and elucidate the nature of Innis's thought. However, just as this literature offers different interpretations and assessments of Innis's work, it similarly offers a distinct lack of consensus on the nature and significance of Veblen for Innis.
This paper constitutes a contribution to this debate. The basic argument is that the intellectual influence of Veblen on Innis is of such significance that an appreciation of it is essential for a full understanding of Innis's work. The paper begins with a short literature review that identifies those disparate interpretations of this Veblen-Innis relationship that have been previously advanced. The next section provides some background and biographical information on Innis, which helps establish the context in which his exposure to and assimilation of Veblen's ideas occurred. Following this is a section of the paper that draws attention to the similarity of Veblen's and Innis's critiques of neoclassical economics. This sets the stage for the core of the paper, which examines the influence of Veblen in the development of Innis's own analytical framework. Attention is drawn to the significance of certain analytical concepts found within Veblen's work that are appropriated and subsequently transformed by Innis and that become integral to his own research. This is followed by a discussion of the issues of human nature, human behavior, and agency. The argument there is that while Innis does not attempt to deal with Veblen's notions of instincts, a Veblenian element can still be discerned in Innis's concern with the issues of identity, consciousness, and agency. The final portion of the paper pulls together the arguments of the preceding sections in order to make some general methodological points and thereby help situate Innis in relation to both Veblen and the Veblenian legacy as manifested in American institutionalism.
Extant Interpretations of the Veblen-Innis Link
As was noted above, references to Veblen are by no means uncommon in the secondary literature on Innis. However, other than a wide recognition that Innis essentially accepted Veblen's critique of neoclassical economics, there is no consensus on the character and extent of Veblen's influence on Innis. Aspects of this neoclassical critique are examined in a later section of this paper. The objective of this section is to map the terrain that the existing debate has covered.
In one of the earliest surveys of Innis's research and publications, W. T. Easter-brook [1953] unequivocally stated that "Veblen's influence left its mark."
In [Innis's] method of approach, in the selection of questions he regarded as most significant, and in his emphasis on the total environment of economic thought, Veblen's influence was beyond question [Easterbrook 1953, 293].
However, Easterbrook held that this Veblenian influence was most pronounced in the early years of Innis's career.[3] In this "Veblen phase," which to Easterbrook covers the period from 1920 to 1933, Innis is said to be engaged in a systematic investigation of the effects of industrialism in Canada. For Easterbrook, the specific Veblenian influence manifests itself through Innis's acceptance and utilization of the putative price-technology dichotomy associated with Veblen. Easterbrook views Innis's work in this period as revealing a mastery of the technological side of this dichotomy, whereas aspects of the pricing element were developed somewhat belatedly and thus really only emerged in Innis's second phase (1934-40).[4]
This concern with the technological aspects of the effect of industrialism on modern societies and values is also adduced by Carl Berger [1976, chap. 4] as evidence of Veblen's influence on Innis. For Berger, however, this influence is not entirely salutary. Berger suggests that this technologically oriented Veblenian influence contributed to the presence of a deterministic element in Innis's analytical framework.[5] David McNally [1981] attempted to exploit this deterministic vein in a much more explicit fashion. Regarding the attention Innis gave to staple production in Canadian economic development, McNally writes that "this focus on the geographic and technical character of staple products was part of Innis's intellectual heritance from Veblen" [1981, 41-42]. McNally insists that the significance of this inheritance is of the utmost importance. According to McNally,
Veblen's technological determinism rendered explicit in Innis what is often merely implicit in classical political economy-its tendency to view production in entirely material or technical terms [1981, 44-45].
McNally thus views Innis's work as a continuation of a long tradition that either ignores or abstracts from the social relations of production. As part of this tradition, Innis's work is vulnerable to the charge of "commodity fetishism." An important implication of this interpretation is that the Veblen-Innis connection is thereby held to occlude any affinity to the work of Marx.[6]
This particular reading of Innis's determinism, including its imputed classical and Veblenian provenance, was rejected by Ian Parker [1983]. In a more constructive vein, Parker subsequently suggested that Veblen's influence manifests itself in Innis's concern with the political economy of communications and culture [Parker 1985]. In particular, a concern with various economic influences on our habits of thought and values are identified as comprising a common denominator in the work of both Innis and Veblen.
Robin Neill [1972], in an original interpretation of Innis's work, essentially rejects this notion of a common denominator. Neill argues that policy prescriptions and evaluations are an essential aspect of social science. These policies, however, require a framework of values to guide and assess their applications. Thus for Neill, the problem of social science is the problem of values. He argues that Veblen "surreptitiously" inserts values "by means of his taxonomic treatment of instincts" [1972, 110]. Since Innis rejects Veblen's treatment of instincts, Neill argues that Innis rejects Veblen's approach to the problem of value. The implication here is that Innis's economics is as distinct from those of Veblen as it is from other major traditions, such as those of the neoclassical or Marxist schools, because Innis's resolution of the value problem is itself a distinct and unique one.
The range of issues highlighted by this cursory review-staples and communications, technology and culture, determinism and values--not only underlines the lack of consensus regarding Veblen's impact on Innis, but also the varied interpretations of the essence and significance of the work of Innis. The inquiry into the importance of Veblen for Innis is thus inextricably tied to the question concerning the nature of Innis's work as a whole. The underlying theme of this paper is that Veblen's legacy was a crucial element in the development of Innis's research agenda and methodology. The following exposition of the nature and realization of that legacy begins with situating Innis in his specific historical context.
An Abbreviated Biographical Profile of Harold A. Innis
Extensive studies of the life and work of Harold Innis (1894-1952) exist and need not be summarized here [see Creighton 1957; Neill 1969, 1972]. The intent of this section is simply to draw attention to some biographical aspects that mark the historical context in which the Veblen-Innis connection emerged.
Like Veblen, Innis hailed from a rural background. Born in Ontario, he completed his master's degree in economics at McMaster in 1918 and, influenced by W. J. Donald, proceeded to the University of Chicago [Neill 1972, 11-12]. As noted by Neill, Donald's influence also directed Innis to C. W. Wright, who suggested and supervised Innis's [1923] dissertation, "A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway." Innis's sojourn in Chicago was relatively brief. He returned to Canada in 1920 and accepted a teaching position in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Toronto. Despite offers to move elsewhere, Innis remained at Toronto, becoming head of the department in 1937 and serving as dean of the graduate school from 1947 until his death five years later [Drummond 1987, 857].
As indicated by his thesis topic, the Chicago experience was influential in motivating Innis's subsequent research in Canadian economic history. It was also via this Chicago connection that Innis was exposed to the range and force of the ideas of Veblen.[7]
Veblen's stay at Chicago had ended in 1905, but his influence on the staff and students at Chicago was more enduring. By the time that Innis arrived, Veblen's ideas were still current and the subject of much discussion by faculty and students. In his unpublished autobiography, Innis remarked that from his contact with other graduate students he was at that time induced to "read intensively" Veblen's works [quoted in Neill 1972, 35]. Neill [1972, 12] also records that Innis was steered by Frank Knight into a discussion group that had Veblen on the agenda.
There was no counterpart to the lively Chicago interest in Veblen at the University of Toronto when Innis arrived in 1920. Economic research on Canadian issues was then in its early stages, and in Canada the discipline itself was still in its formative period. Thus, Innis began his academic life in an environment in which the intellectual necessity for research was constrained by scarce intellectual resources. Innis was acutely aware of the enormity of the challenge facing Canadian research and scholarship. As he embarked upon his own research, he also undertook a commitment to try to articulate a method or approach in order to best tackle the task at hand. This was a concern that figured prominently throughout the rest of his life, and his expanding administrative duties as well as his writings and research on the universities and education can be viewed in this light.
This concern is also evident in the character of some of Innis's early publications. After the publication of his thesis on the Canadian Pacific Railway, Innis's own research concentrated on what was to become his influential study of the fur trade [Innis 1970]. Yet he still managed to publish contributions pertaining to the development of economic research in Canada. These efforts included compiling bibliographies of research in Canadian economics and economic history [Innis 1928a; 1928b; 1929b], editing the first volume of Select Documents in Canadian Economic History, 1497-1783 [Innis 1929a], and his essay "The Teaching of Economic History on Canada" [Innis 1956, 3-16]. This latter essay is especially important in that it is an explicit attempt by Innis to influence the general direction of economic research in Canada. As Innis puts the matter, "It is proposed to present a survey of the work done in economic history in Canada or in Canadian economics in order to appreciate weak points in the line of attack and to suggest possible remedies" [1956, 3-4]. While acknowledging the important and "central position" accorded to theory, Innis in this paper stresses the indispensability of economic history. The focus on economic history in this essay is complemented by another paper published that same year in which Innis more explicitly addresses theoretical issues. That paper is titled "The Work of Thorstein Veblen" [1956, 17-26].
The publication of the paper on Veblen draws attention to a number of points. The most obvious is that it demonstrates that Innis's interest in Veblen is not confined to his Chicago years. Second, this paper is the only instance of an extended systematic assessment and appraisal of the works of another economist undertaken by Innis. Furthermore, Innis indicates that his motivation in writing the essay stems from his concern that the importance of Veblen's contributions were in danger of being "obscured by the violence of the controversies which have raged about them" [Innis 1956, 17]. In the paper, Innis undertakes to restate those contributions. Insofar as this restatement coincided with Innis's aforementioned efforts to shape the direction of future economic research in Canada, Veblen's contributions can be viewed as an integral aspect of Innis's conceptualization of the path that lay ahead.
The Critique of Neoclassical Economics
Veblen's criticism of neoclassical economics is well known, and elements of that critique are rendered explicit in various articles written expressly for that purpose.[8] By way of contrast, a sustained and explicit critique of this sort is not to be found among Innis's extensive range of publications. This is not to suggest that Innis accepted or embraced economic orthodoxy. On the contrary, his stance, like Veblen's, was highly critical. Indeed, Neill [1972, 109] argues that Innis essentially accepted Veblen's critique, which consequently implies that any further criticism would be redundant. In actual fact, the contours of an Innisian critique can be discerned by sifting through his numerous and wide-ranging publications [Baragar 1993, chap. 21. Although this critique embraces a number of issues that were previously identified and developed by Veblen, it is by no means confined to those elements. It is, however, the Veblenian component that is germane to the present paper. Consequently, it is necessary to identify the elements of Veblen's critique of neoclassical economics that Innis acknowledged and approved of.
In Innis's review of Veblen's work, two aspects of Veblen's criticisms emerge. The first is Veblen's criticism of economics from what Innis termed the standpoint of consumption. At the root of this critique is the attack on the hedonistic conception of economic man. Veblen's description of this fundamental element of neoclassical theory is unsurpassed and merits extended quotation.
The hedonistic conception of man is that of a lightning calculator of pleasures and pains, who oscillates like a homogeneous globule of desire of happiness under the impulse of stimuli that shift him about the area, but leave him intact. He has neither antecedent nor consequent. He is an isolated, definitive human datum, in stable equilibrium except for the buffets of impinging forces that displace him in one direction or another. Self-imposed in elemental space, he spins symmetrically about his own spiritual axis until the parallelogram of forces bears down upon him, whereupon he follows the line of the resultant. When the force of impact is spent, he comes to a rest, a self-contained globule of desire as before [Veblen 1919, 73-4].
Veblen [1919, 115-47] had pointed out that this hedonistic element had secured itself a place in economics at least since the days of Jeremy Bentham. However, Veblen regarded the hedonistic conceptualization as both unrealistic and utterly inappropriate for social analysis. He argued that there is nothing given about the economic motivations of agents. On the contrary, both the agent and his or her environment need to be understood as undergoing a cumulative process of change [1919, 73-5]. In The Theory of the Leisure Class [Veblen 1899], Veblen developed an alternative approach to the analysis of social behavior in general and consumption in particular.
Innis viewed this volume as comprising "a direct and devastating attack on the marginal utility theory." According to Innis, Veblen "attempted to destroy the hedonistic calculus which Jeremy Bentham had done much to set up" and thereby "show the weakness of economic theory on the consumption side" [Innis 1956, 22]. There is no evidence that Innis less than fully subscribed to this Veblenian broadside against economic orthodoxy. It is significant that throughout the entire corpus of Innis's work there is no instance of any recourse to utility theory or to the process of utility maximization on the part of rational economic agents.
The second line of criticism that Innis made a point of identifying pertains to what Veblen saw as the static nature of neoclassical economics. For Veblen, the roots of this static approach extended back into the classical tradition. He argued that the classical economists possessed a teleological disposition. They conceptualized the unfolding of economic and social life as a natural or normal process. Theory then entailed the formulation of the principles and laws of this natural process. The natural state is depicted in terms of equilibrium. The theory formulates "the conditions under which this putative equilibrium supervenes" [Veblen 1919, 67]. Furthermore,
Features of the process that do not lend themselves to interpretation in the terms of the formula are abnormal cases and are due to disturbing causes. In all this the agencies or forces causally at work in the economic life process are neatly avoided. The outcome of the method, at its best, is a body of logically consistent propositions concerning the normal relations of things-a system of economic taxonomy. At its worst, it is a body of maxims for the conduct of business and a polemical discussion of disputed points of policy [Veblen 1919, 67-8].
For Veblen, the work of Marshall best exemplified the existing state of this static, equilibrium-based approach [Veblen 1919, 171-7]. Much of the criticism Veblen leveled against J. B. Clark proceeded along similar lines [1919, 180-230]. In short, Marshall, Clark, and neoclassical economics in general were categorized by Veblen as being fundamentally taxonomic.
Innis's summary of these particular works indicates his understanding of the nature and target of Veblen's attack. For example, Innis [1956, 24] referred to Veblen's article on the work of J. B. Clark as an "onslaught on static economics." In describing Veblen's position, Innis wrote that "contemporary economic theorists, from his point of view, were engaged in the business of classifying, and the science under Marshall was in much the same position as botany under Asa Gray" [1956, 24].
In his assessment of Veblen's work, Innis attempted to ensure that the force of Veblen's critique would not act to overshadow the other important elements of Veblen's work. Innis actually argued that the significance of these critical or "destructive" articles was in fact relatively "slight," in that their importance is outweighed by Veblen's "constructive" work. Innis's summary interpretation of Veblen's constructive work construed it as "essentially the elaboration of an extended argument showing the effects of machine industry and the industrial revolution" [1956, 231. For Innis, the salient feature of this body of work was its dynamic, non-teleological character. Indeed, for Innis, Veblen's "life work has been primarily the study of processes of growth and decay" [1956, 24]. Innis goes on to remark that while "it is much too early to appraise the validity of this work . . . it is the method of approach which must be stressed, not the final conclusions." Thus, for Innis, the methodological significance of Veblen's criticism of the non-dynamic aspect of neoclassical economics is eclipsed by the analytical potential inherent in Veblen's alternative, dynamic approach. Nevertheless, by taking the critical as well as the positive aspects of Veblen's work into account, Innis concluded that Veblen had "waged a constructive warfare of emancipation against the tendency towards standardized static economics" [1956, 26]. Duly emancipated, the static equilibrium framework was never employed by Innis, whereas the dynamic element comprised an integral feature of his analytical framework.
The Transmission and Transformation of Analytical Concepts
Integral to the analytical framework that Innis developed is a set of three distinct analytical concepts. None of these concepts can be said to have originated with or been invented by Innis. On the contrary, they have a longer intellectual history. There is nothing especially unusual about this. Social and economic ideas, concepts and theories are not concocted ex nihilo. Like other products of human activity, intellectual products also require their own materials. These intellectual means of production include the hitherto existing stock of ideas, concepts, theories, etc., that have been previously produced and are available and at the disposal of the subsequent practitioners of that intellectual craft. The application of this bequeathed toolbox to the analytical task at hand, along with the sharpening of these tools, contributes to the continuity evident in intellectual history. An essential feature of this production process, however, is the fact that some producers are able to rework and thereby transform these productive materials. The resulting output can be qualitatively different from that which existed before. Apparent discontinuities, or even revolutions, in theory and thought can result.
It is in this context that Veblen is of direct significance with regard to certain analytical concepts employed by Innis. Each of the three concepts are evident in Veblen's works, but in Innis's works they have been somewhat transformed. As a result, Innis's analytical framework is qualitatively different from that of Veblen despite a direct conceptual linkage.[9]
The first of these concepts is the price system. References to the price system are found throughout Veblen's works, and the term even appears in the title of a collection of his papers [Veblen 1934]. For Veblen, the price system refers to the significance of the market as an organizing framework for economic activity. This implies that producers undertake their activities with an eye toward effecting the sale of their products in that market. Sales are weighed in terms of potential or actual pecuniary gain. As activities are increasingly oriented around the market and assessed in terms of pecuniary gain, "the price system comes into the foreground" [Veblen 1914, 244]. Those directly involved in market activities become "creatures and agents" of the price system [Veblen 1934, 14]. The price system thus puts its stamp on the agents involved. It induces "a statistical habit of mind" and an attendant increase in bookkeeping and accounting [1914, 243-4]. With competition running in terms of money, the money unit becomes "the standard measure of efficiency and achievement" [1914, 218]. The culture itself is transformed into a pecuniary or "business" culture, which for Veblen had dire consequences for the development of workmanship and productive efficiency. Thus, the price system for Veblen is not something as trivial as a vector of values of interest to market agents, but is rather a social arrangement that cultivates a pecuniary culture and moulds agents accordingly.[10]
It is this conception of the price system that Innis appropriates and reworks so as to render it central to his own analytical framework. Like Veblen, Innis conceptualizes the price system as an active social force. For Innis, it is in fact the fundamental and primary dynamic force underlying the development and expansion of capitalism. Consequently, in much of Innis's work, as in that of Veblen's, there is extensive and wide-ranging analyses of the effects of the price system in shaping the culture and institutions of both new and existing social formations. Veblen, however, tended to emphasize the distinction between the development of the pecuniary culture incidental to the dynamic force of the price system, on the one hand, and the development of technology and industrial production on the other.[11] Thus, an important implication of the price system for Veblen is the emerging dichotomy between the pecuniary and productive sides of modern society, or what he refers to as the opposition between business and industry. In Innis's framework, this dichotomy is absent. The motive force of the price system is inextricably connected with the process of industrial production and technological change. Innis points out that the rise of industrialism was hastened by the increasing effectiveness of the price system [1956, 259], but in regards to Innis's framework this historical development should not be viewed as an external by-product. It also does not constitute a mitigating or constraining factor with respect to the power of the price system. It is an integral feature of the price system as conceptualized by Innis. The palpable social force of the price system effectively mobilizes industrial production and technology in order to follow its logic of expansion through space and time. Notwithstanding his debt to Veblen, Innis nonetheless felt that Veblen had failed to grasp the full significance of this point.[12] Consequently, it is in Innis's conceptualization that the rise of industrialism and its ongoing process of technological change act to render the expansionary and transformative impact of the price system even more powerful and far-reaching [Innis 1956, 252-72].[13]
A second important concept that is developed and used in Innis's work is the notion of bias. Here, too, the notion was previously employed by Veblen. Veblen [1914] uses the term bias in a rather general sense to refer to a predisposition toward a particular objective or to a particular means or method. He introduces the term in the context of his discussion of instincts, but he emphasizes that in their historical development the evolving interplay of instincts both give rise to and are subject to biases [Veblen 1914, 24, 35]. These predispositions are the consequences of the cumulative habituations of the various social practices that members of different societies have historically engaged in. Tradition, customs, conventions, preconceptions, knowledge, and conventional wisdom are manifestations of this habituation. They "may affect the working-out of any given line of endeavour in much the same way as if these habitual elements were of the nature of a native bias" [1914, 39]. The influence of these manifestations on the working-out of various lines of social endeavors constitutes a prominent theme running throughout Veblen's work. From this perspective, and not withstanding the influence of instincts, the notion of bias as an analytical concept employed by Veblen is best understood as essentially a cultural phenomenon.[14]
Innis also makes extensive analytical use of the notion of bias. By employing it in conjunction with his broader systemic conceptualization of the price system, Innis is able to identify and analyze particular tendencies within the overall dynamic of systemic expansion. However, with Innis, the concept is further extended and re-worked. This is especially apparent in the relationship of bias to technological development.
As mentioned above, industrial production and technological change are integral to Innis's conceptualization of the price system. Any specific technological development, then, must of course be analyzed in terms of the general expansionary logic of the price system. For Veblen, the bias incidental to a particular social formation can influence that society's technological development in a way that is not always salutary. Specifically, "the bias so accentuated comes to pervade the habits of thought of all the members of the community and gives a corresponding obliquity to the technological groundwork of the community" [Veblen 1914, 41]. However, for Innis, that specific technology, when situated in its concrete historical situation, itself imparts a bias that shapes the particular rate, direction, and form of the system's expansion. More specifically, this bias entails an emphasis or predisposition toward a particular type of economic activity. Examples could include production of a particular type of product, or the employment of a particular production method, or an emphasis on marketing, or a demand for regulation. Of particular interest to Innis, in terms of his concrete research, was the bias imparted from developments in communications. Innis considered the concept of bias as being sufficiently robust as to warrant its application in the investigation of changes in communications in other social formations that were not organized in terms of the price system [Innis 1964; 1972]. Innis held that the bias of production in general, and of communications in particular, carried a particular bias for the content of knowledge possessed by any given society [1964, 3]. For Innis, that bias had profound implications not only for the trajectory of the particular social formation in question, but also for its stability and ongoing viability. Bias implies the negation of balance and perspective and, in Innis's framework, is the source of crisis and potential collapse.
There is a third conceptual element in Innis's framework for which he is indebted to Veblen. That pertains to Innis's notion of the margin or periphery relative to the center or core. As Ian Parker has noted, Innis's interest in this relationship was influenced by Veblen's emphasis on the significance of marginality [Parker 1977, 5631.
The idea of the margin is an inherently relational one, in that it is intelligible only in connection with its counterpart, the center or core. Veblen developed this idea in terms of his consideration of the significance of "backwardness." For Veblen, a particular country or region was backward if it possessed a less advanced degree of technological development than its counterparts elsewhere. The significance of backwardness for Veblen was that backward countries could borrow techniques and institutional arrangements that were previously developed and established in the more advanced countries. Through this borrowing process, these so-called "late-comers" could strip these techniques and institutions of those anachronistic and ceremonial aspects with which they would inevitably be encumbered in their country of origin. As a result, the items borrowed could be better applied and adapted to the developmental task at hand. The hitherto backward country would now be in a position to accelerate its rate of industrial production leading not only to a shedding of its backward status, but possibly surpassing the levels of the previous leaders [Veblen 1914, 248-51; 1915].
Veblen's discussion of backwardness emphasizes the existence and analytical significance of uneven economic development and of the migration of techniques, values, and institutions. All of these elements are equally prominent in Innis's work. They are especially evident in his well-known studies of the economic development of North America [Innis 1936; 1956]. In the course of this research, Innis develops and applies this relational concept of the center and the margin. Thus, for Innis, Canadian economic development is interpreted as development at the margin or the periphery of a socioeconomic system, or civilization, whose center is located in Western Europe and later the United States. This development involves the migration to the periphery of technology, institutional arrangements, and values. However, Innis's interpretation of the above mentioned migration differs from that of Veblen. Whereas for Veblen the impetus for borrowing sterns from the backward or peripheral regions themselves, for Innis the migration is a consequence of the dynamic expansion of the overall socioeconomic system itself. As a result, economic development at the periphery is shaped by the powerful logic of the expansionary socioeconomic system of which it is a part. It is in this sense that economic development in the periphery can be understood as dependent development.[16]
This dependent feature of development is a crucial element in Innis's notion of the center-margin relationship. It emphasizes the fact that this center-margin nexus is situated in the context of a dynamic expanding system, and it in part reflects the qualitative difference between his framework and that of Veblen. It further implies that Innis does not assess the potentialities of historical backwardness in as favorable a light as does Veblen. Innis argues that peripheral areas are especially exposed to the impact of changes in the pace and form of expansion of the system as a whole. In the face of such changes, problems of adjustment are acute. For Innis, institutional innovation at the margin is often the response to demands for adjustment. The burdens of adjustment borne by social formations at the periphery are of more immediate concern and significance to Innis than are any ascribed advantages inherent in backwardness.
These three concepts-the price system, bias, and the relationship between the center and the margin-when cast in their Innisian mold, from vital analytical pillars supporting the formation and internal coherence of Innis's inquiries into and interpretations of actual society economic developments. Thus, an Innisian approach into, say, some particular aspect of Canadian economic development would situate that specific subject within the context of the expansionary dynamic of the price system, identify the institutional expressions of the relevant center-margin relations, and undertake an exploration of the biases incidental to the institutional arrangements, cultural context, and concrete activities associated with the subject under investigation. Some issues pertaining to this cultural context and the concrete activities of agents also have some bearing on the question of the relationship between Innis and Veblen and are pursued in the following section.
Human Nature, Human Behavior, and Agency
A considerable literature has developed in regards to Veblen's theory of human nature and to the role that his notion of instincts plays in his overall analytical framework. It is not the intent of this paper to either assess or contribute to that discussion. Furthermore, Innis's works fail to reveal any specific interest on his part with the theoretical and philosophical questions pertaining to human nature. However, the issue of human behavior was very much a concern to Innis. As Innis remarked in the preface to The Bias of Communication, a number of his papers were stimulated by a consideration of the question, "Why do we attend to the things to which we attend?" [Innis 1964, xvii]. These considerations also bear the influence of Veblen.
Neill [1969, 10] argues that Innis rejected Veblen's concept of instincts. Indeed, it is striking that in his article on Veblen, Innis never referred to Veblen's instincts at all. It is also striking that a discussion of instincts is absent in Innis's other works.
However, on a less reductionist level, Veblen accorded considerable attention to the concept of institutions as habits of thought. Furthermore, as Geoffrey Hodgson [1992, 288] has pointed out, "Veblen often repeats that habits of thought are mould-ed or even inculcated by culture, practice or technology." It is these habits of thought that comprise the consciousness of agents, and it is this consciousness which generates the motivations, or reasons, incidental to the actions of agents. Thus, a Veblenian approach suggests that a study of culture, practice, and technology would be an effective means by which an inquiry into the issues raised by the question above could proceed.
This is in fact the approach adopted by Innis. He refers to cultural values as "the way in which or the reasons why people of a culture think about themselves" [Innis 1964, 132]. His concrete studies investigating the organization of production and the application of technology, including those directly addressed to modes of communications, can thus be viewed as material contributing to the determinants of culture and cultural change. However, the similarity of the approach of Veblen and Innis to the analysis of culture and consciousness should not obscure their respective differences in focus. One aspect of Veblen's discussions continues to revolve around the issue of the extent to which a culture is the institutionalized expression of selected but salient instincts. As was noted above, this was not an evident concern of Innis. However, Veblen's approach enabled him to acknowledge the existence of different and even opposing cultural values within any specific social formation. The tension between a pecuniary culture and the instinct of workmanship is a case in point. From this vantage point, Veblen was able to consider the means by which an ideological hegemony of vested interests, including its imperialistic and patriotic manifestations, could emerge [Veblen 1964; 1965, chaps. 8 and 10; Hunt 1979, 134-5]. Innis was less attentive to a society's internal cultural tensions. His concern resided more in the realm of the nature of the cultural bias of a society as a whole as well as the implications of that bias for that society's future development and existence [Innis 1972; 1964]. Thus, for example, nationalistic fervor and patriotic zeal were, for Innis, less an expression of the ideological hegemony of the vested interests than the consequence of a society's increased susceptibility to the dangers of "obsession and intolerance" resulting from the loss of perspective incidental, in the modern era, to the transformative powers of the price system [Innis 1946, ix and passim]. However, notwithstanding this perceptible difference in focus, the recognition by both Veblen and Innis of the significance of culture for social and economic analysis, and their similar interpretations of what that significance is, both help support the claim that Innis is an important bearer of and contributor to Veblen's intellectual heritage.
The preceding sections have argued that the influence of Veblen on Innis is extensive. That influence is especially noticeable in terms of Innis's critical stance toward neoclassical economics, his development of certain specific analytical concepts, and the similarity of Veblen's and Innis's approaches to the study of culture and its significance in the determination of social consciousness and behavior. As a result, this influence was critical to the development of Innis's general analytical framework as well as to his later specific inquiries. It is further argued that some of the significant differences between the analytical frameworks of Innis and Veblen are due in part to the fact that Innis appropriated and subsequently transformed certain critical concepts that thereby imparted a qualitatively different character to his analysis. This qualitative difference, when combined with the fact that Innis held all of his academic posts in Canada and that much of his research dealt with what are ostensibly topics in Canadian, British, or ancient economic history possibly contributed to the relative neglect of Innis by those predominantly American scholars interested in the evolution of the Veblenian tradition. Veblen furnished Innis with some of the means of production essential for the latter's intellectual project. The results, though, are of course genuinely Innisian.
1. For example, in their history of economic thought textbook,
Eketund and Hebert [1990] title one of their chapters
"Thorstein Veblen and American Institutional Economics" and
refer to Veblen as "the progenitor of the only uniquely
American school of economics" [1990, 449]. See also Galbraith
[1987, 197].
2. For example, Geoffrey Hodgson [1992, 292] claims that a clear
link exists from Veblen to Allyn Young to Nicholas Kaldor. but
that this connection has been "hitherto unexplored." Kaldor,
of course, was a Cambridge (UK) economist.
3. In one of his earlier articles. Ian Parker [1977, 552] also
argues that Veblen's influence was must apparent in the early
Innis. Parker cites Innis's The Fur Trade in Canada [Innis
1970], which was first published in 1930. as evidence.
However, as indicated below, Parker seems to have subsequently
revised this initial assessment.
4. Easterbrook argues that four distinct phases are identifiable
in Innis's work. Implicit in his argument is that the
influence of Veblen wanes as Innis's work matures and develops
along its own axis.
5. Berger argues that Innis's determinism is of both a
technological and geographical character. Berger [1976, 92-93]
identifies the work of the Scottish geographer Marion Newbigin
as being especially important in the formation of the
geographical component in Innis's analyses.
6. The relationship of the work of Innis to that of Marx and the
relative importance of these two writers in the revival of
Canadian political economy were issues that sparked
considerable debate in Canadian political economy [see, for
example, Parker 1977, 1983; Macpherson 1979; McNally 1981,
1986; Schmidt 1981; Watkins 1981, 1982].
7. Scholarly attention has also been directed toward the nature
and legacy of Innis's exposure to and connections with other
intellectual currents present at Chicago at that time. Neill
[1972, chap. 2] discusses the significance of Innis's contact
with Frank Knight, J. M. Clark, and Morris Copeland. For a
consideration of the relationship of Innis to the Chicago
School of Sociology, see F. M. Stark [1994].
8. Some of Veblen's criticisms apply to the period prior to the
marginalist era and thus are designed to implicate classical
economics as well. A selection of Veblen's critical essays are
collected in Veblen [1919].
9. The following discussion does not imply that any or all of
these three concepts necessarily originated with Veblen. The
argument is simply that these concepts were important elements
of Veblen's thought and that they reappeared in a somewhat
different form in Innis's work, thereby rendering his
analytical framework different from but still connected to
that of Veblen.
10. The important emphasis that Veblen gives to the interplay
between the price system on the one hand, and habits of mind
and cultural factors on the other, serves to accentuate the
difference between Veblen's framework and that of the earlier
school of classical political economy as exemplified by Adam
Smith. There is a dynamic aspect to the price system as
conceptualized by Smith, but Smith does not view it as
moulding in turn the culture and habits of mind of the agents
involved. Smith's agents are natural-born, self-interested
11. This aspect of Veblen's thought was developed further, and
arguably transformed as well, in the work of Clarence Ayres,
who emphasized the distinction between the progressive force
of technological development and the inhibiting or restraining
influence of institutions [see Ayres 1952, 1953; Walker 1979].
12. Consider, for example, Innis's remark that "Veblen's emphasis
on the pecuniary and industrial dichotomy overlooks the
implications of technology, for example in the printing
industry, and its significance to the dissemination of
information in a pecuniary society" [Innis 1964, 187].
13. From a broader perspective, Innis's price system can be
understood as incorporating both Smithian and Veblenian
elements. The Smithian strand emphasizes the dynamic
geographical expansion of the system and its feedback affects
on the division of labor and productive techniques. The
Veblenian strand emphasizes the transformative impact on
culture and institutions.
14. I am indebted to an anonymous referee for the clarification
and importance of this point.
15. Much of Innis's work can be interpreted as an attempt to
identify the nature of the bias currently facing Western
civilization and, conjointly, as a plea to develop some
perspective so as to be able to offset the potentially
negative consequences of that bias.
16. The "dependent" aspect of Canadian economic development
discernable in Innis's work has resulted in various attempts
to link Innis with the dependency theory developed by Latin
American economists in the 1960s. For a review of the
literature inspired by the possible similarities between Innis
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