I’m sure that I am not the only member of the I&E Reading Group plodding through Thomas McCraw’s enthralling Prophet of Innovation this week. I will also start in on the “live blog,” as promised.
The book is a linear progression through both his life and his thinking about economics. One of the clear messages, and, indeed, a clear message of virtually any history of thought book, is that the thinker is shaped by his or her environment (see, for example, The Worldly Philosophers and New Ideas from Dead Economists). McCraw certainly paints Schumpeter (a.k.a., Jozsi, Schum, Schumy, Schump, Go-Go) as a product of his environment. From his mother’s social climbing (Chapter 2 Summary: Jozsi was something of a mama’s boy) to the horror and devastation of World War I to his spectacular failure as an investment banker, each of these experiences is linked to Schumpeter’s intellectual and professional trajectories.
McCraw divides this world up into three parts: L’Enfant Terrible, The Adult, and The Sage. By the time he’s 40, he’s already “played many parts — boy genius, Austrian aristocrat, English gentleman, Cairo attorney, Viennese economist, university professor, minister of finance, investment banker, socialite, and free-spirited Casanova” (124). Not to mention, triumphant swordsman in a duel with an uncooperative librarian (I’m looking at you, Mr. Gilbert). That’s quite a whirlwind. Not incidentally, he had also written some defining pieces, including The Theory of Economic Development and “The Crisis of the Tax State,” which made him almost world famous.
So, this week and next, I will be “live blogging” the book. Rather than recounting the fascinating details of Schumpeter’s life in the “live” blog, I am simply going to offer up some thoughts and topics for discussion that I have carved out and that other members of the group have provided me. I will likely have my first post up later tonight.
You can get a listing of our progress by clicking on the tag “live blog” below. I hope it’s helpful.