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July, 2019


By Mu-Jeong Kho

University College London, United Kingdom


In a context of current socio-economic disorder deepening in capitalism, there has been an understandable resurgence of interest in heterodox economic approaches, which step outside the dominant neo-liberal consensus. Although the field of heterodox approaches are extremely affluent to research on the origin of disorder occurring capitalism, the weakness that hampers its capacity seriously to challenge the ruling consensus is their current fragmentation of development, and the lack of any clear and specific methodology for conducting research on the deeper issue, in particular, on the context of higher education: are capitalist systems of higher education truly self-organising, full of its sequential sub-questions: 1. Understanding what the origin of the disorder in higher education is; 2. Explaining the ‘working rules’ critically on how capitalist systems of higher education are self-organising, possibly through an ‘institutional’ matrix full of variables such as: on the one hand, market vs. non-market; on the other hand, pro-capital vs. anti-capital; 3. Concluding whether capitalist systems of higher education are truly self-organizing; and 4. If not truly (in value and history), envisioning what the normative solution is, with picturing it on the duality between the reformist approach to make the systems work better within it vs. the radical one which looks beyond it.  This paper, respectively defines the term ‘self-organisation’ as a ‘process’ of reconstituting an ‘order out of disorder,’ and the term ‘order’ as ‘structure,’ and the term ‘capital as the ‘result of the laws and institutions’ based on capitalist relations of production, aims to address these particular agendas through Thorstein Veblen and facilitate an in-depth understanding on his position with its application to the case study on the institutions of higher education in the United States, particularly since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. By doing so, this paper argues: within the heterodox school, a dialogue with Veblen is one of the preconditions of deepening the radical theory looking beyond capitalist systems of higher education.

Keywords: Veblen, Self-organisation, Higher Education, Heterodox, Radical, the United States, Beyond Capitalism

JEL Classification: B14, B15, B40, G01, G10

Paper (on-line) – Copyright This paper may be cited or briefly quoted in line with the usual academic conventions. You may also download them for your own personal use. But this paper must not be published elsewhere (e.g. to mailing lists, bulletin boards etc.) without the author's explicit permission. Please note that if you copy this paper you must: • include this copyright note • ‘Do not use the paper for commercial purposes or gain in any way’ • Also, you should observe the conventions of academic citation in a version of the following form:

Kho, Mu-Jeong (2019) ‘Thorstein Veblen in Retrospect and Prospect: Are the Capitalist Systems of Higher Education in the U.S. Truly Self-Organising?’ Conference Paper, presented at the 10th International AFEP-IIPPE Conference (with participation by ADEK, AHE, and EAEPE), titled ‘Envisioning the Economy of the Future and the Future of Political Economy,’ History of Economic Thought, Economic Methodology and Critique of the Mainstream (HETEMECoM) Session VIII., Sciences Po, France, 3 July 2019 to 5 July 2019, 1-19.

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