Since its publication in 1918, Thorstein Veblen’s The Higher Learning in America has remained a text that every serious student of the American university must confront. Intellectual historian Richard Teichgraeber brings us the first scholarly edition of Veblen’s classic, thoroughly edited, annotated, and indexed. An extensive introduction discusses the book’s composition and publishing history, Veblen’s debts to earlier critics of the American university, and the place of The Higher Learning in America in current debates about the American university.
Veblen’s insights into the American university system at the outset of the twentieth century are as provocative today as they were when first published. Insisting that institutions of higher learning should be dedicated solely to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, he urged American universities to abandon commitments to extraneous pursuits such as athletics, community service, and vocational education. He also believed that the corporate model of governance—with university boards of trustees dominated by well-to-do businessmen and university presidents who functioned essentially as businessmen in academic dress—mandated unsavory techniques of salesmanship and self-promotion that threatened to reduce institutions of higher learning to the status of competitive business enterprises.
With a detailed chronology, suggested readings, and comprehensive notes identifying events, individuals, and institutions to which Veblen alludes, this volume is sure to become the standard teaching text for Veblen’s classic work and an invaluable resource for students of both the history and the current workings of the American university.
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