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Berle and Veblen: An Intellectual Connection

Charles R.T. O'Kelley

Adolf A. Berle, Jr. Center on Corporations, Law and Society, Seattle University School of Law

April 15, 2011

Seattle University Law Review, Forthcoming

This article highlight the need for further research into the connection between Berle and Means’ The Modern Corporation and Private Property (Modern Corporation) and the work of Thorstein Veblen, the father and intellectual inspiration of institutional economics. Much has been and continues to be written about Berle in legal journals, but Veblen is almost entirely ignored. Thus, while the connection between Veblen and Modern Corporation is indisputable, the meaning of that connection has not been explored in any depth. The article provides a framework for thinking about the nature of Veblen’s influence on Modern Corporation and provides an initial account of how Veblen’s work may help us understand what Berle intended to convey in Modern Corporation.

The article draws from Veblen’s own writings to provide a sketch of his life’s work, in order to provide an access point for readers. Then, I place Modern Corporation in the context of Veblen’s work. In so doing I will suggest that Modern Corporation should be considered a work of evolutionary economic science as Veblen used that term. The article details Veblen’s vision of modern economics as an evolutionary science, and highlights Veblen’s twenty-five year attempt to create an evolutionary economic account of American capitalism, with particular emphasis on Veblen’s seminal insights concerning the modern corporation and separation of ownership and control. The article concludes with re-interpretation of Modern Corporation in light of Veblen’s body of work.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: Berle, Veblen, Institutional Economics, Legal History, Corporate Governance, Separation of Ownership and Control, Shareholder Primacy, New Deal, Rathenau, Sociology, Law and Society, Neo-Classical, Utility Maximizing, Darwin, Marshall, Smith, Galbraith, Means, Social Institution, Laissez-Faire

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Date posted: April 18, 2011  

Suggested Citation

O'Kelley, Charles R.T., Berle and Veblen: An Intellectual Connection (April 15, 2011). Seattle University Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1811115

Contact Information

Charles R.T. O'Kelley (Contact Author)
Adolf A. Berle, Jr. Center on Corporations, Law and Society, Seattle University School of Law ( email )
901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States
206 398 4252 (Phone)
206 398 4077 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.seattleu.edu/x1865.xml

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