Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction

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Overview

The destruction of businesses, fortunes, products, and careers is the price of progress toward a better material life. No one understood this economic principle better than Joseph Schumpeter, who made his mark as the prophet of incessant change. This biography paints a full portrait of the 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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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
[Schumpeter's] private life was no less fascinating than his public message. In Prophet of Innovation, Thomas McCraw--emeritus professor of history at the Harvard Business School--artfully weaves the two together.
— Dan Seligman
Baltimore Sun
[A] persuasive and eloquent biography.
— Jay Hancock
American.com
Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction is a well-written and entrancing look at one of the twentieth century's most important economic and political thinkers. McCraw's book may rightly take its place as one of the two or three best biographies of an economist ever written...[It] is so splendid because it succeeds on so many different levels. If the book were simply an account of the Harvard economics department, it would stand as a lasting and significant contribution to the history of economic thought. Alternatively, it is one of the best treatments of what it was like for European intellectuals to migrate to the United States. Or are you interested in why Austria fell apart during the 1920s, and how someone with as little real world experience as Schumpeter became Minister of Finance? The book is also a love story, and an account of how a possibly dysfunctional man can nonetheless find romantic happiness after repeated failures and tragedies. Last but not least it is an intellectual history...Every year there are three or four non-fiction books that have to be read, and this is one of them.
— Tyler Cowen
economicprincipals.com
McCraw...frames his narrative confidently and writes beautifully...Best of all, McCraw is an extremely good interpreter of Schumpeter's published work.
— David Warsh
National Review
An extraordinary new biography. Prophet of Innovation by Thomas K. McCraw chronicles the life of one of the 20th century's most original and insightful scholars...Like his contemporary and frequent rival John Maynard Keynes, Schumpeter makes for a rich biographical subject. Keynes received the treatment he deserved from Lord Robert Skidelsky's magisterial multi-volume biography. McCraw's effort, similarly, is worthy of Schumpeter.
— Nick Schulz
London Review of Books
McCraw's triumph is to tell...readers quite as much as we need to know about Schumpeter in a lucid and well-paced narrative, while also supplying, for more rigorous scholars, no fewer than two hundred pages of endnotes...McCraw successfully passes off the life of a professor of economics as a story that fully complements its undoubted intellectual significance with a tantalizing human interest.
— Peter Clarke
American Conservative
A thinker as multifaceted as Schumpeter demands much of a biographer, and in Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, Thomas McCraw delivers...McCraw not only excels at conveying the innovation and excitement in Schumpeter's work, he keeps readers riveted to the story of the economist's life, and some of the twists are almost novelistic...[An] outstanding biography.
— Daniel McCarthy
Weekly Standard
It's no small feat to make a jaunty read out of the life of an economist dead more than 50 years, and Thomas K. McCraw has done just that in his impressive new biography of Joseph Schumpeter.
— Kevin R. Kosar
Irish Times
[Schumpeter] deserves more recognition and McCraw's book is to be welcomed on that account.
— Pat McArdle
Washington Times
Prophet of Innovation is an immensely entertaining read.
— Marisa Morrison
Harvard Magazine
Although Schumpeter died in 1950, McCraw is right to insist that his contributions to our understanding of the economies in which we live are still vital today.
— Peter Timlin
The Nation
Books on the lives of the great economists might not, at first blush, set the blood coursing. Yet Robert Skidelsky's masterly three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes proved how engrossing such a life could be. It is high praise to say that Thomas McCraw's biography of Joseph Schumpeter, Prophet of Innovation, has some of the same quality and appeal...McCraw, who has written the definitive biography of his subject, supplies many testimonials to Schumpeter's genius and influence from both his day and our own.
— Robin Blackburn
Choice
[McGraw] has written an impressive and thoughtful biography of one of the most significant economists of the 20th century. Although widely regarded as a man of no small ego, Schumpeter can justifiably lay claim to effecting considerable scholarly debate in a wide range of academic backgrounds. Schumpeter’s analysis of economic development and business cycles, his notion of the process and significance of creative destruction, and his views on entrepreneurial activities continue to influence generations of economists and social scientists. McGraw’s thorough, insightful biography draws on an array of public and private papers to explain Schumpeter’s scholarly development and increasing sway, from his early years in Vienna to Bonn and later to his tenure at Harvard. This engaging scholarly work provides substance and context and is well worth a close read by both students and faculty.
— T.E. Sullivan
Reason
McCraw’s book on Schumpeter is an absorbing read, with short chapters, lots of personal detail and historical scene setting, and an important anti-Galbraithian economic theme.
— Deirdre McCloskey
Forbes
An excellent, thorough and smoothly written biography of Joseph Schumpeter, the greatest economist of the 20th century. Too bad most politicos--and economists--don't fully grasp his insights.
— Steve Forbes
The Spectator
Those seeking some escape from the deluge of "Keynes the Comeback Kid" will enjoy a refresher on that other brilliant economist of his generation, Joseph Schumpeter. Thomas K. McCraw's brilliant biography of the economist who best understood the turbulence of markets and "creative destruction" is all the more relevant as a credit crisis-induced recession unfolds. This biography is the clearest and most comprehensive guide to Schumpeter's life and work and the turbulence of his time which has, like the classic business cycle, come round again.
— Bill Jamieson
openlettersmonthly.com
It's the lively and penetrating prose of the book itself that make its appearance in paperback a cause for rejoicing. Reading it is certainly time well-invested.
— Abraham Benrubi
New Yorker
McCraw doesn't get lost in the baroque details of Schumpeter's story--how many economists ever fought a duel?--or in the arcana of his theories, achieving a balance that his brilliant and restless subject rarely did in life.
The Economist
Much honored as an economic prophet, Joseph Schumpeter has had to wait half a century after his death for this splendid full-dress biography covering his ideas, life, and times...[This is] a fat, learned biography by Thomas McCraw, one of America's most respected business historians, the author of a Pulitzer prize-winning history of the rise of regulation. He has found the perfect subject in Schumpeter. He succeeds in getting inside the economist's head, explaining not just what he thought but why he thought it. Beyond this, he also succeeds in painting a portrait of his times. Fin de siècle Vienna, Weimar Germany, Harvard University before and after the first world war: all come to life on these pages.
New Yorker
McCraw doesn't get lost in the baroque details of Schumpeter's story--how many economists ever fought a duel?--or in the arcana of his theories, achieving a balance that his brilliant and restless subject rarely did in life.
The Economist
Much honored as an economic prophet, Joseph Schumpeter has had to wait half a century after his death for this splendid full-dress biography covering his ideas, life, and times...[This is] a fat, learned biography by Thomas McCraw, one of America's most respected business historians, the author of a Pulitzer prize-winning history of the rise of regulation. He has found the perfect subject in Schumpeter. He succeeds in getting inside the economist's head, explaining not just what he thought but why he thought it. Beyond this, he also succeeds in painting a portrait of his times. Fin de siècle Vienna, Weimar Germany, Harvard University before and after the first world war: all come to life on these pages.
Harold James
This well-paced and beautifully written book explains not only Schumpeter's work but also the fast-changing phenomenon of modern capitalism. McCraw brings out Schumpeter's energy and charisma as well as the power of his ideas, quite skillfully linking the economist's colorful and adventurous personal life with the development of his views. This book is a fine tribute to a great thinker.
Edmund S. Phelps
A welcome book—a truly penetrating biography of the most influential theorist of finance capitalism.
Amar Bhidé
A most compelling portrait of a complex man who has had a profound influence on how we think about entrepreneurship.
Wall Street Journal - Dan Seligman
[Schumpeter's] private life was no less fascinating than his public message. In Prophet of Innovation, Thomas McCraw--emeritus professor of history at the Harvard Business School--artfully weaves the two together.
Baltimore Sun - Jay Hancock
[A] persuasive and eloquent biography.
American.com - Tyler Cowen
Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction is a well-written and entrancing look at one of the twentieth century's most important economic and political thinkers. McCraw's book may rightly take its place as one of the two or three best biographies of an economist ever written...[It] is so splendid because it succeeds on so many different levels. If the book were simply an account of the Harvard economics department, it would stand as a lasting and significant contribution to the history of economic thought. Alternatively, it is one of the best treatments of what it was like for European intellectuals to migrate to the United States. Or are you interested in why Austria fell apart during the 1920s, and how someone with as little real world experience as Schumpeter became Minister of Finance? The book is also a love story, and an account of how a possibly dysfunctional man can nonetheless find romantic happiness after repeated failures and tragedies. Last but not least it is an intellectual history...Every year there are three or four non-fiction books that have to be read, and this is one of them.
economicprincipals.com - David Warsh
McCraw...frames his narrative confidently and writes beautifully...Best of all, McCraw is an extremely good interpreter of Schumpeter's published work.
National Review - Nick Schulz
An extraordinary new biography. Prophet of Innovation by Thomas K. McCraw chronicles the life of one of the 20th century's most original and insightful scholars...Like his contemporary and frequent rival John Maynard Keynes, Schumpeter makes for a rich biographical subject. Keynes received the treatment he deserved from Lord Robert Skidelsky's magisterial multi-volume biography. McCraw's effort, similarly, is worthy of Schumpeter.
London Review of Books - Peter Clarke
McCraw's triumph is to tell...readers quite as much as we need to know about Schumpeter in a lucid and well-paced narrative, while also supplying, for more rigorous scholars, no fewer than two hundred pages of endnotes...McCraw successfully passes off the life of a professor of economics as a story that fully complements its undoubted intellectual significance with a tantalizing human interest.
American Conservative - Daniel McCarthy
A thinker as multifaceted as Schumpeter demands much of a biographer, and in Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, Thomas McCraw delivers...McCraw not only excels at conveying the innovation and excitement in Schumpeter's work, he keeps readers riveted to the story of the economist's life, and some of the twists are almost novelistic...[An] outstanding biography.
Weekly Standard - Kevin R. Kosar
It's no small feat to make a jaunty read out of the life of an economist dead more than 50 years, and Thomas K. McCraw has done just that in his impressive new biography of Joseph Schumpeter.
Irish Times - Pat McArdle
[Schumpeter] deserves more recognition and McCraw's book is to be welcomed on that account.
Washington Times - Marisa Morrison
Prophet of Innovation is an immensely entertaining read.
Harvard Magazine - Peter Timlin
Although Schumpeter died in 1950, McCraw is right to insist that his contributions to our understanding of the economies in which we live are still vital today.
The Nation - Robin Blackburn
Books on the lives of the great economists might not, at first blush, set the blood coursing. Yet Robert Skidelsky's masterly three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes proved how engrossing such a life could be. It is high praise to say that Thomas McCraw's biography of Joseph Schumpeter, Prophet of Innovation, has some of the same quality and appeal...McCraw, who has written the definitive biography of his subject, supplies many testimonials to Schumpeter's genius and influence from both his day and our own.
Choice - T.E. Sullivan
[McCraw] has written an impressive and thoughtful biography of one of the most significant economists of the 20th century. Although widely regarded as a man of no small ego, Schumpeter can justifiably lay claim to effecting considerable scholarly debate in a wide range of academic backgrounds. Schumpeter’s analysis of economic development and business cycles, his notion of the process and significance of creative destruction, and his views on entrepreneurial activities continue to influence generations of economists and social scientists. McCraw’s thorough, insightful biography draws on an array of public and private papers to explain Schumpeter’s scholarly development and increasing sway, from his early years in Vienna to Bonn and later to his tenure at Harvard. This engaging scholarly work provides substance and context and is well worth a close read by both students and faculty.
Reason - Deirdre McCloskey
McCraw’s book on Schumpeter is an absorbing read, with short chapters, lots of personal detail and historical scene setting, and an important anti-Galbraithian economic theme.
Forbes - Steve Forbes
An excellent, thorough and smoothly written biography of Joseph Schumpeter, the greatest economist of the 20th century. Too bad most politicos--and economists--don't fully grasp his insights.
The Spectator - Bill Jamieson
Those seeking some escape from the deluge of "Keynes the Comeback Kid" will enjoy a refresher on that other brilliant economist of his generation, Joseph Schumpeter. Thomas K. McCraw's brilliant biography of the economist who best understood the turbulence of markets and "creative destruction" is all the more relevant as a credit crisis-induced recession unfolds. This biography is the clearest and most comprehensive guide to Schumpeter's life and work and the turbulence of his time which has, like the classic business cycle, come round again.
openlettersmonthly.com - Abraham Benrubi
It's the lively and penetrating prose of the book itself that make its appearance in paperback a cause for rejoicing. Reading it is certainly time well-invested.
Worth
Although he died 60 years ago, Schumpeter's ideas about capitalism still resonate, including the belief that no business, no matter how successful, should assume it will be around forever.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674025233
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 736
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Preface ix

Part I L'Enfant Terrible, 1883-1926: Innovation and Economics

Prologue: Who He Was and What He Did 3

1 Leaving Home 10

2 Shaping His Character 23

3 Learning Economics 38

4 Moving Out 57

5 Career Takeoff 67

6 War and Politics 84

7 Gran Rifiuto 104

8 Annie 113

9 Heartbreak 126

Part II The Adult, 1926-1939: Capitalism and Society

Prologue: What He Had Learned 145

10 New Intellectual Directions 151

11 Policy and Entrepreneurship 167

12 The Bonn-Harvard Shuttle 184

13 Harvard 205

14 Suffering and Solace 222

Part III The Sage, 1939-1950: Innovation, Capitalism, and History

Prologue: How and Why He Embraced History 247

15 Business Cycles, Business History 251

16 Letters from Europe 279

17 To Leave Harvard? 302

18 Against the Grain 313

19 The Courage of Her Convictions 326

20 Alienation 337

21 Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 347

22 War and Perplexity 375

23 Introspection 399

24 Honors and Crises 409

25 Toward the Mixed Economy 422

26 History of Economic Analysis 442

27 A Principle of Indeterminateness 469

28 L'Envoi 485

Epilogue: The Legacy 495

Notes 507

Acknowledgments 695

Illustration Credits 699

Index 703

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