Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction

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Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 736 pages
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Pan Am, Gimbel's, Pullman, Douglas Aircraft, Digital Equipment Corporation, British Leyland--all once as strong as dinosaurs, all now just as extinct. Destruction of businesses, fortunes, products, and careers is the price of progress toward a better material life. No one understood this bedrock economic principle better than Joseph A. Schumpeter. "Creative destruction," he said, is the driving force of capitalism.

Described by John Kenneth Galbraith as "the most sophisticated conservative" of the twentieth century, Schumpeter made his mark as the prophet of incessant change. His vision was stark: Nearly all businesses fail, victims of innovation by their competitors. Businesspeople ignore this lesson at their peril--to survive, they must be entrepreneurial and think strategically. Yet in Schumpeter's view, the general prosperity produced by the "capitalist engine" far outweighs the wreckage it leaves behind.

During a tumultuous life spanning two world wars, the Great Depression, and the early Cold War, Schumpeter reinvented himself many times. From boy wonder in turn-of-the-century Vienna to captivating Harvard professor, he was stalked by tragedy and haunted by the specter of his rival, John Maynard Keynes. By 1983--the centennial of the birth of both men--"Forbes" christened Schumpeter, not Keynes, the best navigator through the turbulent seas of globalization. Time has proved that assessment accurate.

"Prophet of Innovation" is also the private story of a man rescued repeatedly by women who loved him and put his well-being above their own. Without them, he would likely have perished, so fierce were the conflicts between his reason and his emotions. Drawing on all of Schumpeter's writings, including many intimate diaries and letters never before used, this biography paints the full portrait of a magnetic figure who aspired to become the world's greatest economist, lover, and horseman--and admitted to failure only with the horses.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - beaurichly - LibraryThing

Schumpeter, the Austrian economist who coined the term "creative destruction," lived through the first era of globalization and the crippling effect of poor policies that prolonged the Great ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - NellieMc - LibraryThing

Superb biography on a man who even though he died in the early 50's continues to influence a great many economists (and therefore government and business decision-makers) but is surprisingly little ... Read full review

Contents

Leaving Home
10
Shaping His Character
23
Learning Economics
38
Moving Out
57
Career Takeoff
67
War and Politics
84
Gran Rifiuto
104
Annie
113
Letters from Europe
279
To Leave Harvard?
302
Against the Grain
313
The Courage of Her Convictions
326
Alienation
337
Capitalism Socialism and Democracy
347
War and Perplexity
375
Introspection
399

Heartbreak
126
The Adult 19261939 Capitalism and Society
143
What He Had Learned
145
New Intellectual Directions
151
Policy and Entrepreneurship
167
The BonnHarvard Shuttle
184
Harvard
205
Suffering and Solace
222
The Sage 19391950 Innovation Capitalism and History
245
How and Why He Embraced History
247
Business Cycles Business History
251
Honors and Crises
409
Toward the Mixed Economy
422
History of Economic Analysis
442
A Principle of Indeterminateness
469
LEnvoi
485
The Legacy
495
Notes
507
Acknowledgments
695
Illustration Credits
699
Index
703
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About the author (2009)

Thomas K. McCraw is Straus Professor of Business History Emeritus at Harvard Business School and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History.

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