Joseph Schumpeter

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Joseph Schumpeter

Joseph Alois Schumpeter (born February 8, 1883 in Triesch , Moravia , Austrian half of Austria-Hungary , † January 8, 1950 in Taconic , Connecticut , USA ) was an Austrian economist and politician . He took German citizenship in 1925 and US citizenship in 1939.

In his early work Theory of Economic Development (1911) he attempts to explain the economic development of capitalism. In his late opus Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) he also addresses socio-political implications. With his extensive works he is considered to be one of the outstanding economists of the 20th century.

Live and act

Joseph Alois Schumpeter was the only child of the Catholic, German-Moravian cloth manufacturer Joseph Alois Karl Schumpeter (born March 15, 1855 in Triesch; † January 14, 1887 there) and his wife Johanna, née. Grüner (born June 9, 1861 in Wiener Neustadt; † June 22, 1926 in Vienna) was born in Triesch (Moravia), which at that time belonged to the western half of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy . After the early death of his father, the 5-year-old moved to Graz with his then 27-year-old mother in 1888 . Here his future stepfather Sigismund von Kélersden, Lieutenant Field Marshal in the Austro-Hungarian Army , took him under his wing.

The family moved to Vienna in 1893 and Schumpeter was accepted into the Theresianum . In 1901 he left the Theresianum with a very good degree and immediately began to study economics at the University of Vienna , which at that time was only possible as part of a law degree . Schumpeter studied with Friedrich von Wieser and Eugen von Philippovich and from 1904 with Eugen Böhm von Bawerk . He also made contact with Ludwig von Mises , Emil Lederer , Felix Somary , Otto Bauer and Rudolf Hilferding . In this way, he became familiar not only with the methodological dispute between Carl Menger and Gustav von Schmoller , but also with the Böhm-Bawerk / Hilferding controversy about Marx's theory of value and distribution .

In the summer of 1905, Schumpeter took the legal, and at the beginning of 1906, the legal history and political science Rigorosum and received his doctorate in February 1906 as a doctor of law. He then attended Schmoller's seminar in Berlin and spent a year as a research student at the London School of Economics and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge . In late 1907 he married Gladys Ricarde Seaver, daughter of a high dignitary of the Anglican Church . However, according to the biographer Swedberg, the couple lived next to each other instead of together at best after a few months.

In 1907 Schumpeter practiced at the International Court of Justice in Cairo , where he wrote his methodological work The Essence and Main Content of Theoretical Economics, published in 1908. In October he submitted it to the Political Science Faculty of the University of Vienna as a habilitation thesis and was appointed private lecturer in 1909.

Memorial plaque in Chernivtsi

In the following autumn he became an associate professor at the University of Chernivtsi , at that time the capital of the Austrian crown land Bukovina , and wrote the theory of economic development there .

In 1911 he returned to Graz as a full professor for political economy at the Karl-Franzens-University ; he became the youngest university professor in the monarchy. The appointment to Graz took place against the bitter resistance of Richard Hildebrand (son of the better known Bruno Hildebrand ), who, as a representative of historicism, turned against any economic theory. Just two years after his appointment, Schumpeter went to Columbia University in New York as an exchange professor for a year . There he met Irving Fisher , Frank W. Taussig and Wesley Clair Mitchell personally. His wife refused to return to Graz with him, whereupon Schumpeter regarded this marriage as in fact ended. In the academic year 1916/1917 he became dean of the law faculty in Graz.

From 1916 to various Schumpeter launched political initiatives to end the World War II, among other things, he went to Kaiser I. Karl approach. He warned against the customs union with Germany and instead campaigned for the maintenance of the multinational monarchy, directed against the emergence of individual nationalisms . In the winter of 1918/1919, Schumpeter was appointed to the socialization commission set up by the German government at the suggestion of Hilferding and Lederer . Under the direction of Karl Kautsky , the main question was whether the German coal industry should be the first branch of industry to be socialized. The results report from February 1919, which was also supported by Schumpeter, spoke in favor of it. His study The Crisis of the Tax State (1918) dealt with the restructuring of state finances in view of the war debts.

On March 15, 1919, he became State Secretary of Finance in the Renner II state government , although he was politically independent . He quickly got into a dispute with both coalition parties, the Social Democrats and the Christian Socialists, but also with his former student colleague Otto Bauer , now State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, above all over the question of joining Germany or the sale of Alpine Montan AG to Fiat . On October 17, 1919, by decision of the National Assembly , the government was replaced by the Renner III cabinet , to which Schumpeter was no longer a member.

An appointment to the University of Munich, which was temporarily considered at the end of 1919, came to an end because of the controversial assessment of his person, whereby numerous allegations against his personal demeanor and his attitude in the political disputes played a role. In 1921 Schumpeter applied in Graz to be dismissed from teaching and became president of “Biedermann & Co. Bankaktiengesellschaft”. He took out loans, invested the money and lived an elaborate, sophisticated lifestyle in Vienna. However, the economic crisis in 1924 put an abrupt end to this; he lost his fortune and his post. In this disastrous situation, Arthur Spiethoff , meanwhile professor at the University of Bonn , succeeded in winning Schumpeter for the local chair for economic political science in October 1925. The students of the Bonn period include Hans Wolfgang Singer , Cläre Tisch , Wolfgang F. Stolper , Herbert Zassenhaus and August Lösch . In 1925 he married Anna Josefina Reisinger, who was twenty years his junior and the daughter of the caretaker in his mother's house. On August 3, 1926, she died giving birth to her first child; the child did not survive the birth either. His mother had already died in June. Schumpeter should not fully recover from these strokes of fate. He threw himself into scientific work and in 1926 brought out a second, revised version of the theory . He also made his position, which was in some cases newly accentuated, clear in the article The Instability of Capitalism ( The Economic Journal , 1928). Competitive capitalism with the shape of the entrepreneur is being replaced more and more by a defensive capitalism in which the personality and initiative of the entrepreneur are less important. In the Presidential Address before the American Economic Association in 1949, he speaks of a “march into socialism”. In contrast to the well-known Marxian prognosis, however, he understands this to be a creeping process that he by no means welcomes politically. He did not complete the planned work on monetary theory after Keynes published the Treatise on Money in 1930 . From autumn 1927 to spring 1928 and towards the end of 1930 he was visiting professor in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Together with Ragnar Frisch , he co-founded the Econometric Society ; he was a member of its board of directors for several years and was its president in 1940/41. On the return trip to Germany he gave several lectures in Japan. After his return Schumpeter was interested in a chair in Berlin to succeed Werner Sombart , to which Emil Lederer was appointed.

He accepted a call to Harvard University in 1932 and moved to the United States in September, where he lived at Taussig's house until he married Elizabeth Boody Firuski in the summer of 1937. In 1933 Schumpeter was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . His success as a teacher was based on students such as Paul A. Samuelson , James Tobin , Richard Musgrave , Abram Bergson , Richard M. Goodwin , Erich Schneider , Paul Sweezy , Eduard März and John Kenneth Galbraith . At his suggestion, a lecture in "Mathematical Economic Theory" was introduced, which he held himself until it was taken over by Wassily Leontief . The renewed fame, which Keynes also earned at Harvard after the publication of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, was not at all shared by Schumpeter, which was openly expressed in his disapproving review.

In 1939 he presented the two-volume analysis of the Business Cycles , in which Schumpeter re-presented his conception of the capitalist economic process, in particular the interaction of the overlapping cycles. The latter view was strongly criticized by Simon Kuznets in 1940. He then considered going to Yale , but was eventually persuaded to stay at Harvard. Core of his 1942 published work Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (dt .: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy ) is a theory of democracy , the economic paradigm used in the analysis of the political process. This idea is later continued in the "New Political Economy" or "Economic Theory of Politics" ( Anthony Downs ) and is considered one of the foundations of democratic socialism .

During the war years, Schumpeter's health deteriorated; he was increasingly in need of care. Abusive remarks against Keynes and racist remarks on his part accumulated. Nevertheless, he was in 1948 the American Economic Association as elected president and began another monumental work, his History of Economic Analysis , which has remained unfinished. This could only be published by his widow in 1954 after his death. Schumpeter died of a stroke on January 8, 1950 .


The essence and main content of theoretical political economy

With this work, published in 1908 and submitted as a habilitation thesis, Schumpeter suddenly made a name for himself in German-speaking economics. Some of the theses represented in it can already be found in the essay "On the mathematical method of theoretical economy" published in 1906. Based on Stanley Jevons ( Theory of Political Economy ) and Léon Walras, he advocates a “pure economy” which, as an exact science, presents its judgments in the form of mathematical equations. Following the methodological dispute between Carl Menger and Schmoller, Schumpeter pleads for both-and-also. For pure theory, however, he considers a “ methodological individualism ” to be indispensable, which he justifies instrumentally . Heinrich Dietzel was already a forerunner in both approaches . Pure theory only needs to introduce assumptions that are inevitable for its goals. Psychological or sociological assumptions are not part of it, which guarantees the autonomy of pure theory.

The instrumentalist treatment of unreal model or behavioral assumptions and the isolation of pure theory from other social sciences have been heavily criticized, but have nonetheless found numerous successors.

Economic development theory

This work appeared in 1911, the second - heavily revised - edition appeared in 1926. Translations into Italian, English, French, Japanese and Spanish followed. He begins the cycle view of the economy with the fact that he (like François Quesnay and Karl Marx ) initially assumes a stationary economy, which he analyzes in the sense of Walras' theory of general equilibrium . Here, however, there is no profit (and no “entrepreneur”), only wages and basic pensions . Starting from this stationary view, Schumpeter attempted to set up a theory of economic dynamics which (similar to Marx's theory of accumulation and collapse) could explain economic development (s). Schumpeter did not make a detailed comparison of theories in this passage of his book .

In his Theory of Economic Development (1911), Schumpeter justified pioneering achievements not primarily with economic self-interest, but with psychological motives , which also include the “joy of design”. According to Schumpeter, innovation turns an innovative entrepreneur into a monopoly - until copycats emerge (or other developments fade his innovation). Schumpeter recognized the interplay between innovation and imitation as the driving force of competition. It forms the basis for a number of business cycle models . The terms creative destruction and creative destruction are known in macroeconomics to this day - mostly under the term disruptive innovation.

Epochs of the history of dogmas and methods

In 1914, Schumpeter, who was just 30 years old, was invited by Max Weber to write an article on the epochs of the history of dogmas and methods for the outline of social economics . According to Schumpeter, the development of social economics into science begins with the ancient authors and continues through scholasticism to mercantilism . Like Marx, he sees the decisive influence of Francois Quesnay and William Petty and uses the term “ vulgar economy ”, albeit with reference to some authors of mercantilism. Schumpeter regards Adam Smith's importance as rather minor: Smith was essentially a systematist of ideas that others would have had before him. In contrast to Alfred Marshall's account, classical economics is for Schumpeter an independent theoretical approach that culminates in David Ricardo , and not just a crude forerunner of neoclassical theory .

Capitalism, socialism and democracy

Schumpeter made the following key contributions:

  • New coining of the terms “ innovation ” and “innovator” as well as elaboration of their significance for long waves in economic development, which he called the Kondratiev cycle .
  • Thoughts on the nature and basis of motivation of the entrepreneur: he distinguishes arbitrage entrepreneurs or "hosts" from "creative entrepreneurs".
  • Intensive examination of the topics of capitalism and socialism . Schumpeter thought capitalism was not viable. In contrast to Karl Marx , however, he saw him not primarily endangered by his adversaries, the proletariat , but rather by the consequences of his success that had retroactive effects on himself, in particular by the obsolescence of the entrepreneurial function, the destruction of the social strata that protected him and the growing Rejection of the intellectuals towards capitalism.
  • An important thesis Schumpeter was the distinction between capitalist and entrepreneur (Entrepreneur) . In his opinion, entrepreneurs are characterized by the fact that they constantly want to improve their economic position through innovations. Accordingly, it is the entrepreneurial spirit that generates innovations and thus drives economic growth and social change. The connection between innovation activity and diffusion of innovations remains unexplained by Schumpeter.

History of Economic Analysis

Schumpeter's history of theory, posthumously published by his widow, is an important reference work today.


Through his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy , published in 1942, Schumpeter worked far into political science ( democratic theory ) and sociology , there early on in particular on financial sociology . It has been translated into numerous languages; the concept of creative destruction discussed there is often ascribed to him.

In his contribution to the discussion about imperialism , in contrast to Lenin, he did not understand imperialism as an aggressive search by industrial and banking monopolies for new markets , but as an expression of ultimately irrational , mostly domestically motivated and used chauvinism by the upper classes .

It is believed that John Kenneth Galbraith in his work The New Industrial State was influenced by Schumpeter's views of cooperation . Furthermore, an influence of Schumpeter on the development economist Ragnar Nurkse is discussed.

In the late 20th century, Schumpeter's ideas were revisited in some growth theories (Neo-Schumpeterians).

The special attention given by start-up companies to structural change also has Schumpeter's roots.


Schumpeter is ascribed the statement: “A dog is more likely to store a sausage than a democratic government a budget reserve” (“Schumpeter theorem”).


The Volkswagen Foundation named a Schumpeter Fellowship program in his honor . The Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research awards a Schumpeter grant .

At the Bergische Universität Wuppertal , the Faculty of Business and Economics expanded its name to include the Schumpeter School of Business and Economics for the 2008/2009 winter semester .

There has been a Schumpeterstrasse named after him in Linz since 1965 . In 1994 the Schumpeterweg in Vienna- Floridsdorf (21st district) was named after him. In Germany, too, there are several places that honor Schumpeter with a street name: Berlin : Schumpeterstrasse , Bonn : Joseph-Schumpeter-Allee , Dortmund : Schumpeterweg .

At the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz , where Schumpeter taught from 1911 to 1921, the 'Graz Schumpeter Center for Economic and Social Studies' (GSC) was founded in 2005.

The British magazine The Economist named a weekly column on economics and innovation that has appeared in Schumpeter's honor since September 2009 and justified this with the fact that he was one of the few intellectuals who had actually understood the essence of entrepreneurship.


  • The essence and main content of theoretical political economy. 1908, Duncker and Humblot, Berlin. (34th edition). Publishing house economy and finance, Düsseldorf 1991, ISBN 3-428-02318-8 , digitized online .
  • How to study social science. 1910.
  • Economic Development Theory : an examination of entrepreneurial profits, capital, credit, interest and the business cycle. 1911.
  • On the sociology of imperialisms . 1919.
  • Business Cycles. 1939. (German: Konjunkturzyklen. 1961)
  • Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 1942. (German: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy . Translated by Susanne Preiswerk. 3rd edition. 1972, ISBN 3-7720-0917-4 )
    • Capitalism, socialism and democracy. Introduction by Eberhard K. Seifert, 7th expanded edition. UTB, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-8252-0172-4 .
      • Capitalism, socialism and democracy. 10th, completed edition. With an introduction by Heinz D. Kurz; translated by Susanne Preiswerk (part I-IV) and Theresa Hager, Philipp Kohlgruber and Patrick Mellacher (part V) Narr Francke Attempto, Tübingen 2020, ISBN 978-3-8252-5317-2 (print), 978-3-8385- 5317-7 (ePDF)
  • Essays on Sociology. 1953.
  • History of Economic Analysis. 1954. (German: History of economic analysis. 2 volumes. 2nd edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-10526-9 )
  • Letters. ed. by Ulrich Hedtke, Richard Swedberg. Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-16-147254-3 .

See also


Web links

Commons : Joseph Schumpeter  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Harald Hagemann:  Schumpeter, Joseph Alois. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 755 f. ( Digitized version ).
  2. Heinz D. Kurz: Joseph A. Schumpeter. A social economist between Marx and Walras . Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89518-508-6 , p. 11 f.
  3. See Max Weber: Letters 1918–1920. Edited by Gerd Krumeich and M. Rainer Lepsius (Max Weber Complete Edition. Volume II / 10. Partial Volume 2, Tübingen 2012, pp. 918–920 and more often.)
  4. The "Biedermann & Co. Bankaktiengesellschaft" was created in 1921 from the conversion of the private bank "ML Biedermann & Comp.", Founded by Michael Lazar Biedermann in 1808, into a stock corporation . The driving force behind this transformation was Joseph Schumpeter, who knew how to win over domestic and foreign shareholders for the new bank limited company. At that time, the founding Biedermann family had nothing to do with the bank.
  5. Heinz D. Kurz: Joseph A. Schumpeter. A social economist between Marx and Walras . Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89518-508-6 , p. 24 f., P. 11, note 1.
  6. ^ Past and Present Officers. ( American Economic Association ), accessed October 31, 2015 .
  7. Heinz D. Kurz: Joseph A. Schumpeter. A social economist between Marx and Walras . Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89518-508-6 , pp. 33-41.
  8. Heinz D. Kurz: Joseph A. Schumpeter. A social economist between Marx and Walras . Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89518-508-6 , pp. 41-53.
  9. Schumpeter: Theory of Economic Development. 1997 (1911), p. 138.
  10. Frank Schohl: The market-theoretical explanation of the economy . Tübingen 1999; G. Haag, W. Weidlich, G. Mensch (1987): The Schumpeter Clock. In: D. Batten, J. Casti, B. Johansson (Eds.): Economic Evolution and Structural Adjustment . Berlin pp. 187-226 .; Wolfgang Weidlich, Günter Haag: Concepts and Models of a Quantitative Sociology - The Dynamics of Interacting Populations . Berlin, Heidelberg, New York 1983. Chapter 5 " Non-Equilibrium Theory of Investment: 'The Schumpeter Clock' "
  11. ^ Clayton M. Christensen: The Innovator's Dilemma. New York 2011, p. 10.
  12. ^ Joseph Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy . 1942 (quote: "Can capitalism survive? No. I do not think it can."). , as well as: “… capitalist order tends to destroy itself and… socialism is… a likely heir”, “My final conclusion therefore does not differ… from that of all Marxists.” Quoted by Alfred Müller: Die Marxsche Konjunkturtheorie - An over-accumulation-theoretical interpretation. PapyRossa, Cologne 2009 (dissertation 1983), p. 338.
  13. See Alexander Ebner , Introduction to the new edition 2007
  14. ^ Hans-Heinrich Bass : Ragnar Nurkse's Development Theory: Influences and Perceptions. In: R. Kattel, JA Kregel, ES Reinert (ed.): Ragnar Nurkse (1907–2007). Classical Development Economics and its Relevance for Today . London: Anthem Press, pp. 183-202. (PDF; 94 kB)
  15. See e.g. B. Bernhard Dietz: The power of inner relationships: historical-comparative development research using the example of the "Celtic periphery" of the British Isles ( ), p. 74 ff. ( Online )
  16. Hans-Heinrich Bass: SMEs in the German National Economy: Past, Present, Future ( Memento of the original from December 15, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (pdf), reports from the World Economic Colloquium of the University of Bremen , No. 101, Bremen 2006 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Gerhard shopping :
  18. Schumpeter Fellowships ( Memento of the original from April 7, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. PDF
  20. ^ Schumpeter School of Business and Economics. Retrieved June 4, 2009 .
  22. ^ The Economist: Schumpeter - Taking Flight