Joseph Schumpeter


Joseph Schumpeter : biography

8 February 1883 – 8 January 1950

Most important work


The source of Joseph Schumpeter’s dynamic, change-oriented, and innovation-based economics was the Historical School of economics. Although his writings could be critical of the School, Schumpeter’s work on the role of innovation and entrepreneurship can be seen as a continuation of ideas originated by the Historical School, especially the work of Gustav von Schmoller and Werner Sombart.

Evolutionary economics

According to Christopher Freeman (2009), a scholar who devoted much time researching Schumpeter’s work: "the central point of his whole life work [is]: that capitalism can only be understood as an evolutionary process of continuous innovation and ‘creative destruction’ [This] is still not taken into the bosom of mainstream theory, although many now pay lip service to it."(Freeman, 2009; p. 126) in Techno-economic paradigms: essays in honor of Carlota Perez. Edited by Wolfgang Drechsler, Erik Reinert, Rainer Kattel.

History of Economic Analysis

Schumpeter’s scholarship is apparent in his posthumous History of Economic Analysis, although some of his judgments seem idiosyncratic and sometimes cavalier. For instance, Schumpeter thought that the greatest 18th century economist was Turgot, not Adam Smith, as many consider, and he considered Léon Walras to be the "greatest of all economists", beside whom other economists’ theories were "like inadequate attempts to catch some particular aspects of Walrasian truth". Schumpeter criticized John Maynard Keynes and David Ricardo for the "Ricardian vice." According to Schumpeter, Ricardo and Keynes reasoned in terms of abstract models, where they would freeze all but a few variables. Then they could argue that one caused the other in a simple monotonic fashion. This led to the belief that one could easily deduce policy conclusions directly from a highly abstract theoretical model.

Business cycles

Schumpeter’s relationships with the ideas of other economists were quite complex in his most important contributions to economic analysis – the theory of business cycles and development. Following neither Walras nor Keynes, Schumpeter starts in The Theory of Economic DevelopmentSchumpeter, J.A. The theory of economic development : an inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle translated from the German by Redvers Opie (1961) New York: OUP with a treatise of circular flow which, excluding any innovations and innovative activities, leads to a stationary state. The stationary state is, according to Schumpeter, described by Walrasian equilibrium. The hero of his story is the entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur disturbs this equilibrium and is the prime cause of economic development, which proceeds in cyclic fashion along several time scales. In fashioning this theory connecting innovations, cycles, and development, Schumpeter kept alive the Russian Nikolai Kondratiev’s ideas on 50-year cycles, Kondratiev waves.

Schumpeter suggested a model in which the four main cycles, Kondratiev (54 years), Kuznets (18 years), Juglar (9 years) and Kitchin (about 4 years) can be added together to form a composite waveform. Actually there was considerable professional rivalry between Schumpeter and Kuznets. The wave form suggested here did not include the Kuznets Cycle simply because Schumpeter did not recognize it as a valid cycle. See "Business Cycle" for further information. A Kondratiev wave could consist of three lower degree Kuznets waves.Recent research suggests that the Kuznets swing could be regarded as the third harmonic of the Kondratiev wave – see Korotayev, Andrey V., & Tsirel, Sergey V. . Structure and Dynamics. 2010. Vol.4. #1. pp. 3–57. Each Kuznets wave could, itself, be made up of two Juglar waves. Similarly two (or three) Kitchin waves could form a higher degree Juglar wave. If each of these were in phase, more importantly if the downward arc of each was simultaneous so that the nadir of each was coincident it would explain disastrous slumps and consequent depressions. As far as the segmentation of the Kondratiev Wave, Schumpeter never proposed such a fixed model. He saw these cycles varying in time – although in a tight time frame by coincidence – and for each to serve a specific purpose.