List of top three members of Institutional School of Economics:- 1. Thorstein Bunde Veblen 2. John Rogers Commons 3. Wesley Clair Mitchell.

Member # 1. Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857-1929):

Veblen was the founder of Institutionalism and the spiritual leader of renaissance in the American Economic thought. He was born of Norwegian parents on a Wisconsin Farm on July 30, 1857. At the age of 23, he graduated from the Carleton college, where he studied political economy under Prof. J.B. Clark. He took a Doctorate Degree in 1884 from the Yale University on “Ethical Grounds of a Doctrine of Retribution”.

Veblen remained unemployed for a period of 7 years. When Prof. Laughlin joined the newly founded Chicago University as Head of the Economics Department, in 1892, he took Veblen with him. He was promoted as Assistant Professor at the age of 43. But Veblen never succeeded as a Professor due to his high eccentricities.

Veblen edited the Journal of Political Economy for about 10 years. He served the University of Stanford from 1906 to 1909, the University of Missouri from 1911 to 1918 and the New School of Social Research from 1919 to 1922. He died in California on August 3, 1929.


Veblen was a prolific writer.

Among his works are:

1. The Theory of the Leisure class (1899);

2. The Theory of Business Enterprise (1904);


3. The Instinct of Workmanship and the state of Industrial Arts (1919);

4. The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation (1919);

5. The Engineers and the Price System (1921);

6. Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times (1923); and


7. Essays in Our Changing Order (1934).

Member # 2. John Rogers Commons (1862-1945):

John Rogers Commons was a leading member of the Institutional School. He was born in rural Ohio in 1862 in an impoverished family. Owing to the financially weak position of his father, he acquired firsthand knowledge of social and economic problems and realised the necessity of solving them.

He graduated at the age of twenty six. He never took his doctorate degree. Since 1904 and until his retirement, he served the University of Wisconsin. He led a very busy life. Besides his major occupation of teaching and writing, he also served on several commissions on state and federal levels.

Though Commons covered a variety of topics like value, monopoly, labour legislation, public utilities, economic thought, housing, trade unionism, social insurance etc., he is generally regarded as a labour economist. While Veblen concentrated on the sociological aspects of the society, Commons contributed to the study of the legal aspects of institutionalism.

The main publications of Commons are:

1. The Distribution of Wealth (1896),

2. Trade Unionism and Labour Problems (1905),

3. Races and Immigrants in America (1907),

4. A Documentary History of American Industrial Society (1910),


5. Labour and Administration (1913),

6. Principles of Labour Legislation (1916),

7. History of Labour in United States (1918),

8. Industrial Goodwill (1919),


9. Industrial Government (1921),

10. Legal Foundations of Capitalism (1924) and

11. Institutional Economics – Its place in Political Economy (1934).

Member # 3. Wesley Clair Mitchell (1874-1948):


Wesely Clair Mitchell was one of the three great figures of the Institutional School, the other two being Veblen and Commons. He was a student and admirer of Veblen. He gave an empirical basis for institutional economics.

He is well known for his pain taking studies of “green backs” and “business cycles”. He did pioneering work in the statistical field and he thought that his statistical studies would provide a firm foundation for the institutionalist ideas of Veblen.

Mitchell was born in Illinois. Though he came from a poor family, he managed to receive university education. He took his doctorate from Chicago University. After serving the Columbia University for a few years, he occupied many important positions. For some time he was Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

He took an active part in the Social Science Research Council, and the Bureau of Educational Experiments. He served on the Immigration Commission, the Bureau of Labour statistics, The Industries Board, President Hoover’s Committee on Social Trends, the National Planning Board, the National Resources Board etc.

He was a visiting Professor also at the Universities of Oxford, California and Cornell. For his outstanding contributions to the science of economics, he received honorary degrees from the Harvard, Columbia, Paris, Princeton, California and Pennsylvania Universities.

Mitchell’s outstanding publications are:


1. History of the Green Backs (1903),

2. Gold Prices and Wages (1908),

3. Business Cycles (1913),

4. Business Cycle and Unemployment (1923),

5. Business Cycles—The Problem and its Setting (1927),

6. Recent Economic Changes (1929),


7. The Backward Art of Spending Money (1937), and

8. Measuring Business Cycle (1946).