John R. Commons, the New Deal and the American Tradition of Empirical Collectivism

Tilman, Rick
September 2008
Journal of Economic Issues (Association for Evolutionary Economi;Sep2008, Vol. 42 Issue 3, p823
Academic Journal
Few critics will question that the high tide of the influence of American institutional economics was reached during the New Deal. John R. Commons, Thorstein Veblen and their disciples reached the apex of their impact on public policy as sources of doctrine, policy-making and advising. Commons remains an influential figure in the history of institutional economics and progressive social thought. And he resides in the American tradition of empirical collectivism as articulated by Currin V. Shields in 1952. The tradition as understood by Commons finds the ultimate locus of power in democratic majorities, not in hegemonic classes or corporate networks, and it is only by its refinement and replenishment that it can meet the demands thrust upon it. His mature theoretical work, published between 1924 and 1950, is the main source of his empirical collectivism as shown through textual exegesis and biographical extrapolation.


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