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Two Worldly Philosophers: Robert Heilbroner and Adolph Lowe

Harald Hagemann

A chapter in Including a Symposium on Robert Heilbroner at 100, 2019, vol. 37C, pp 7-27 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract In his bestselling The Worldly Philosophers, Robert Heilbroner puts the focus on the visions and analyses of the great economic thinkers from Adam Smith to Joseph A. Schumpeter. Worldly philosophy is considered as a child of capitalism and worldly philosophers as system-builders addressing the long-run development of the economy and the society. This implies viewing the economy as historically and institutionally situated demanding a more interdisciplinary perspective and embedding economics in the social sciences. The article compares the work of Heilbroner and Adolph Lowe who was Heilbroner’s main mentor. The focus is on their reflections on Smith and Schumpeter. Heilbroner considered Smith as the first worldly philosopher of whose Wealth of Nations a German translation was published already in 1776 in Stuttgart, Lowe’s native city. Lowe’s early work on business cycles was strongly inspired by Marx and Schumpeter’s emphasis on the role of capital accumulation and technical progress as well as Schumpeter’s distinction between statics and dynamics. Lowe was forced to emigrate from Nazi Germany in spring 1933, only half a year after Schumpeter’s move to Harvard where Heilbroner studied in the late 1930s when Schumpeter enjoyed making provocative statements on the Great Depression which was still not yet overcome.

Keywords: Adam Smith; division of labor; Great Depression; machinery problem; Joseph Schumpeter; worldly philosophers (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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