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vineri, 19 iulie 2013


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Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction

Thomas K. McCraw

The Belknap Pre s s of Harvard Unive r s i t y Pre s s Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England 2007.
Copyright © 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College, all rights reserved printed in the United States of America, Cataloging-in-Publication Data available from the Library of Congress, Library of Congress catalog card number: 2006050887, ISBN-13: 978-0-674-02523-3 (alk. paper), ISBN-10: 0-674-02523-7 (alk. paper).

Schumpeter’s work was so powerful that today’s thinking about capitalism is in large part his—specifically, his emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship, business strategy, and “creative destruction.” Specialists in the analysis of business identify him closely with the first two of these terms. He helped to popularize the third, and he coined the fourth himself. Schumpeter was to capitalism what Freud was to the mind: someone whose ideas have become so ubiquitous and ingrained that we cannot separate his foundational thoughts from our own.My intention in this book is to recover his life and work, so that we can better take the measure of the man and his influence. Despite Schumpeter’s own attraction to numbers, this will not be a book heavy on statistics. But before we meet the man, let us consider the object of his study—capitalism—in the sort of quick statistical overview he would have relished. The cash income of the average American is now more than twenty times what it was in 1800. If you’re an American, imagine trying to live on one-twentieth of what you now earn. Among other changes in your way of life, you’d probably have to grow your own food, as most of your predecessors did in 1800. Today, in the twenty-first century, about 80 percent of the world’s population is still very poor. Many people in the rich countries know this, but the gruesome reality of mass poverty is nonetheless hard to imagine—especially the plight of the desperately poor. Almost half of the global population struggles to survive on less than two dollars a day, compared to about a hundred dollars in the United States. Per capita income in the twenty richest countries is thirty-seven times that in the twenty poorest. Despite big gains in sections of China and India, most countries still have not succeeded in making capitalism work for their people. But some have, and in grand fashion. Recall how quickly Japan and West Germany recovered from the chaos of World War II—vivid examples of innovation driven by local entrepreneurship and national growth policies. The United States helped because the Americans wanted both Japan and Germany to become strong allies in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Another example: the Czech Republic, the land of Schumpeter’s birth, lies between Germany and Austria, two countries where he also lived before he moved to the United States. The Czechs have a lengthy history of prosperous industrialization. But when the Nazis and then the Soviets imposed their political and economic systems, they inflicted grievous damage that lasted long after the advent of democracy in 1990. In 1995 the per capita income of Czechs was only one half that of Germans and Austrians. By 2005 it had risen to two thirds. Most of these numbers reflect the cumulative power of capitalism. In the very long term—say, the thousand years preceding the eighteenth century— personal incomes in Western Europe doubled at the rate of once every 630 years. But after the spread of modern capitalism, they began to double every fifty or sixty years. They doubled every forty years in the United States, and every twenty- ive in Japan, which got a later start and profited from the European and American examples. Even Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels conceded in The Communist Manifesto that a scant hundred years of capitalism had “created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.” And when The Communist Manifesto first appeared in 1848, the “capitalist engine,” as Schumpeter called it, was just warming up. Marx and his followers were the first to use the word capitalism, which they invented as an antonym for socialism. But it took Schumpeter to tell us what the word really meant.

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