Professor of Economics Bill Waller recently presented his paper, “Reconsidering Thorstein Veblen’s Use of Instincts,” in France and the United Kingdom. Waller first presented his work on Nov. 4, to the Cambridge Social Ontology Group as part of the Cambridge Realist Workshop Seminar Series held at Clare College, Cambridge University. He then presented to the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy during its annual meeting, held at the University of Paris-Nord on Nov. 8.
The paper examines “whether advances in the theory of instincts as developed by contemporary evolutionary psychologists can be combined with the evolutionary theorizing about economic process of Thorstein Veblen,” says Waller.
He notes “Veblen’s theories used nineteenth century conceptions of instincts as the source of human motivation for behavior. Subsequent institutional economists replace Veblen’s instinct psychology with a vague form of behaviorism, leaving Veblen’s theory on an uncertain theoretical foundation with regard to motivation. The development of evolutionary psychologists’ theorizing about instincts, now referred to as adaptations, provides an opportunity to place Veblen’s theory of economic behavior back on a more substantial theoretical foundation.”
Waller, who joined the faculty in 1982, holds a bachelor’s and master’s from Western Michigan University and his doctorate from the University of New Mexico. His most recent publications are “John Kenneth Galbraith: Cultural Theorist of Consumption and Power,” Journal of Economics Issues, 42 (1) March 2008:13-24; and “The Political Economy of Laissez Faire,” Journal of Economics Issues, 40 (1) March 2006:59-74. In 1993, he was the recipient of a Fulbright-Hayes grant to conduct research in Sri Lanka.
Specifically on the topic of Veblen, he had an entry, “Thorstein Veblen” published in the “International Encyclopedia of Political Economy,” (Routledge Press, 2000). In addition, in 2007, his chapter, “Thorstein Veblen’s Missing Theory of Exchange,” was published in “Thorstein Veblen and the Revival of Free Market Capitalism,” edited by J.T. Knoedler, R.E. Prasch and D.P. Champlin, published Edward Elgar Publishing.