Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Schumpeter's view of inequalities

LAKOMSKI-LAGUERRE Odile, University of Picardie Jules Verne

At a time when social inequalities as well as innovation have become favourite themes in public or academic debates, Schumpeter's heritage seems to have found some echo in recent economic models, for instance, the ones examining the link between innovations and rising social inequalities. Notwithstanding the above, it has to be noted that the topic of social inequalities has not been a central focus in the vast literature dedicated to Schumpeter's thought. Then, several aspects of Schumpeter's work remain unexplored. Within a history of ideas perspective, two considerations must be emphasized. First of all, the conception of social inequalities must be closely linked to Schumpeter's strong conviction of the dynamic character of life in general, of capitalism notably. This view meant breaking with orthodox economic theory, which deals with homogenous actors acting with the same hedonistic and instrumental rationality. This analytical equality is also largely coupled with a philosophical tradition of utilitarian type, to which Schumpeter was extremely reluctant. Schumpeter was convinced that for all aspects of life, two conflicting forces were at play: the hedonistic-adaptive ones (which are typical of stationary states and equilibrating tendencies) and the energetic-creative ones, which are required for innovative actions that break with the routines and help the economic system enter into qualitative change (Schumpeter's dynamics). In a way, this is in line with Nietzsche's philosophy. Secondly, we aim at showing that despite what has been largely identified as an "elitist" view of society, Schumpeter's theory of leadership does not aim to achieve ethical goals or political objectives. We think that reducing Schumpeter's thought to elite theory would lead to neglect the main concern of his work: to build a general and alternative theory of social behaviour.


Keywords: Schumpeter, Inequalities, Social classes, Elitism, Nietzsche, Leadership

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