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Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destructionby Thomas K. McCraw
Synopses & Reviews
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. Business people 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.
[Joseph Schumpeter's] private life was no less fascinating than his public message. In Prophet of Innovation, Thomas McCraw...artfully weaves the two together." Wall Street Journal
"[An] insightful and highly readable biography." Library Journal
"This well-paced and beautifully written book explains not only Schumpeter's work but also the fast-changing phenomenon of modern capitalism." Harold James, Princeton University
"A welcome book...a truly penetrating biography of the most influential theorist of finance capitalism." Edmund S. Phelps, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economics
"A most compelling portrait of a complex man who has had a profound influence on how we think about entrepreneurship." Amar Bhidé, Columbia University
Drawing on all of Schumpeter's writings, 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.
About the Author
Thomas K. McCraw is Straus Professor of Business History at the Harvard Business School. His book Prophets of Regulation was awarded the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in history.
Table of Contents
Part I: L'Enfant Terrible, 1883-1926: Innovation and Economics
Part II: The Adult, 1926-1939: Capitalism and Society
Part III: The Sage, 1939-1950: Innovation, Capitalism, and History
Epilogue: The Legacy
What Our Readers Are Saying
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