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Schumpeter on Entrepreneurs and Innovation: A Reappraisal

Mark Frank ()

Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 1998, vol. 20, issue 4, 505-516

Abstract: Over the past two decades, technology and innovation have become common themes within the economic growth and economic development literatures. This renewed emphasis is highlighted by the developments in endogenous growth theory (Romer, 1986, 1990; Barro and Sala-I-Martin, 1995), but many have noted that its roots can, in part, be traced to the works of Joseph A. Schumpeter (Nelson and Winter, 1982; Blaug, 1986; Rostow, 1990; Cheng and Dinopoulos, 1992; Freeman 1994; Thanawala, 1994). Schumpeter's principal contributions include his theory that the creative response of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial innovation are the primary determinants of economic change. However, most argue that his vision of entrepreneurs is dichotomous, with one part corresponding to his European period, and the other to his American period (see, for example, Phillips, 1971; Klein, 1977; Nelson, 1977; Freeman, 1982, 1994; Swedberg, 1991; Scherer, 1992; Thanawala, 1994; Malerbaand Orsenigo, 1995). The initial part of his work, it is argued, focuses not on large firms and market structures, but on small firms and individual entrepreneurs. Here Schumpeter presents entrepreneurs as isolated, romanticized individuals who challenge the social system and indirectly propel society to greater economic heights. This period, it is argued, reflects the European half of his life. Schumpeter's American period begins with his stays at Harvard for the academic year of 1927-28, and for a greater part of the year 1930. It is generally argued that in this American period, Schumpeter altered his vision of economic development to accentuate the advantages of monopolistic competition, and to include large established corporations and government agencies as agglomerations capable of fulfilling the entrepreneurial function.

Date: 1998
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Handle: RePEc:cup:jhisec:v:20:y:1998:i:04:p:505-516_00