Justin A. Elardo, PhD
beginning in the late 50s, early 60s, Robert Heilbroner began using "material provisioning" "social provisioning" and "economic provisioning" somewhat interchangeably. During the 60s-80s he used in in more than 3-4 textbooks and numerous articles. The vision, if not the term, was adopted by Heilbroner from Adolph Lowe, who had given a series of lectures at LSE in the 1930s when Robbins and Hayek were in the audience, and Lowe specifically took on the definition of economics put forward by Robbins in his famous book on the Nature and Significance, which became the mainstream textbook definition of allocating scarce resources among competing ends. Gruchy was a big admirer of both Lowe and Heilbroner, who were both Veblen-Commons awardees. No mention of Heilbroner in the recent contributions promoting the term "social provisioning" for example in the Fred Lee and John Henry tribute books, although in his autobiographical piece Fred mentions the first book he read was the Worldly Philosophers and the first classes he took were at the New School, where both Lowe and Heilbroner still were at that time. of course, they never claimed that this idea of economics was original, but could be found in the classical economists, Marx, Veblen, and other "Worldly Philosophers". The non-debate about material vs. social seems to me to be largely based on definitions of material that are not very helpful. material as only referring to sphere of money and markets or even material as in "materialistic" or even the association of "material" and "physical". the important part is the "provisioning" part, in contrast to the Robbins definition. just a few places where Heilbroner used "social provisioning":
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1963, The World of Economics, No. 5, Published by the American Library Association in cooperation with the Public Affairs Committee, Inc.
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1966, “Is Economic Theory Possible?,” Social Research, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 272-294.
p. 278 – “social provisioning”
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1968, The Making of Economic Society, Prentice-Hall.
Heilbroner, Robert, 1979, “Modern Economics as a Chapter in the History of Thought,” History of Political Economy, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 192-198.
“Social provisioning”, “material provisioning”, “physical and social structure of the provisioning process” (1979, p. 194)
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1983, “The Problem of Value in the Constitution of Economic Thought,” Social Research, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 253-277.
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1995, “Putting Economics in its Place,” Social Research, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp. 883-897.
“Art, culture, civil society, or good government may be the most highly regarded social achievements, but they all rest on a foundation of social provisioning without which none of them could long endure.” (1995, p. 884)
Heilbroner, Robert L., and Lester Thurow, 1982, Economics Explained, Prentice-Hall.
Heilbroner, Robert L., and Lester Thurow, 1981, The Economic Problem, Prentice-Hall.
pp. 31, 42
Does anyone know off hand where Veblen defines economics as the study of social provisioning?
Alas, I am away from home and my library.
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