Schumpeter: Theorist of the Avant-Garde

Originally published in The Review of Austrian Economics

This paper argues that Schumpeter’s 1911 edition of ‘Theory of Economic Development’ can be fruitfully read as a theory of the avant-garde, in line with such theories developed by artistic avant-garde around the same time, in particular by the Italian Futurists. In particular it will show that both Schumpeter and other avant-garde theorists sought to break with past (1), identify an avant-garde who could force that break (2), find new ways to represent the dynamic world (3), embrace the new and dynamic (4) and promote a perpetual dynamic process, instead of a specific end-state or utopia (5). This new reading helps us to understand the cultural meaning of this seminal text in economics. Secondly it greatly facilitates our understanding of the differences with the later interwar German edition and English edition, which were more cautious in their embrace of the new, less focused on the individual qualities of the entrepreneur and placed more emphasis on historical continuity. Thirdly this reading suggests a different reason for the bifurcation between Schumpeter and the rest of the Austrian school of economics. Traditionally this split is explained by Schumpeter’s affinities with the Lausanne School, this paper instead suggests that the crucial break between Schumpeter on the one hand and Böhm-Bawerk, Wieser and later members of the Austrian School on the other hand is their theory of and attitude toward social change.

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Find the article online throught The Review of Austrian Economics