Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

The romantic conception of the entrepreneur in Schumpeter’s thought

Azan Louis, LEFMI (Université Picardie Jules Verne), PHARE (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

The links between Romanticism and Economics have rarely been properly investigated, and for a good reason; Economic Science was born out of the 18th century, the Enlightenment and Utilitarianism, whereas Romanticism is precisely an anti-Enlightenment intellectual movement, critical of the claim that reason alone can think and explain the world. While Romanticism is generally regarded as one of the greatest turning points in Western thought (see, for example, Isaiah Berlin (1999)), it seems to have left no trace on modern economic thought. The aim of this paper is therefore to show that the thought of one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, Joseph Aloïs Schumpeter, is deeply marked by Romanticism, particularly in his way of representing the figure of the entrepreneur. It will be shown that Schumpeter’s conception of the entrepreneur, his role and his place in the capitalist system, reflects a romantic attitude and conception of the economic and social world. In a negative way, Schumpeter criticized Utilitarianism, the figure of Homo Oeconomicus (O, Boyle, 2016), as well as the phenomenon of rationalization and bureaucratization of the world, undermining the creative possibilities of the innovative entrepreneur. In a positive way, he emphasized the role of intuition and imagination in the economic decision of the entrepreneur (Bronk, 2009), he transposed the chivalric figure to the business world, and he insists on the dynamism of social life (Shionoya, 2007). We will focus on three romantic dimensions: (i) a macro-social dimension of criticism of the rationalization of the world induced by capitalist modernity, which undermines the creative possibilities of entrepreneurs; (ii) a micro-social dimension of valuing a creative and dynamic economic agent, breaking with the figure of Homo Oeconomicus; and (iii) the insistence on the dynamism of social life (rather than its static dimension).

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Keywords: History of Economic Thought, Romanticism, Entrepreneurship, Joseph A. Schumpeter

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