Chapter 15 Schumpeters view of social inequalities
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Joseph Alois Schumpeter’s ideas are in the discussion agenda of various economists working in different theoretical traditions. At a time when social inequalities as well as innovation have become favorite themes in public or academic debates, Schumpeter’s heritage seems to have found some echo in recent economic models. At the same time, 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. This chapter stresses first that Schumpeter’s conception of social inequalities must be closely linked to his central vision of the dynamic character of life in general, of capitalism notably. This view means breaking with a core assumption in orthodox economic theory, which supposes that to deal with homogeneous actors and individuals they must be treated equally, as they act 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 to commit. 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 and qualitative change (Schumpeter’s dynamics). Secondly, the chapter shows that despite what has been largely identified as an “elitist” view of society, Schumpeter’s theory (especially his analysis of leadership as a key factor of coordination for both the economic system and for the political area) does not aim to achieve ethical goals or political objectives. More generally, a view is taken that Schumpeter was mostly interested in analyzing the social process as it works (and it works as an historical process of qualitative change), not as it is supposed to conform to an ideal.

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