Capitalism, Socialism, and the Cote d’Azur
| Richard Langlois |
Thanks to Nicolai and Peter for inviting me to join in on the fun.
I trust that Nicolai and family are enjoying their vacation in Antibes, soaking up the sun and the local communist ideology. As it happens, I was in that part of the world about a month ago. On a free day while exploring Nice, I headed up to Nice Castle in search of some medieval ambience. Instead I found the annual local fete of the French Communist Party. The experience was surreal in that the event reminded me of nothing so much as the small-town agricultural fairs here in New England. The main difference seemed to be that the booths offering grilled sausages were staffed not by the Columbia Lions Club but by the Pablo Picasso Cell. (I must admit, however, that, even though the towns near me have names like Hebron and Lebanon, none of them would have had a pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli booth.) Adding to the surreal experience, the sound system kept pumping out Steely Dan’s “Cousin Dupree” over and over, apparently as a way of checking the settings.
I was in Nice — actually Sophia Antipolis, which is closer to Antibes — for the biennial meeting of the International Joseph A. Schumpeter Society. This was a rather more capitalistic experience, at least from my point of view. For one thing, the conference dinner, which featured the award of the Schumpeter Prize, took place at a former Rothschild Villa overlooking the sea. As a certain modicum of self promotion is apparently de rigeur in blogs, I suppose I should admit that one of the winners of the Schumpeter Prize was, well, me. The manuscript in question, called The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy, started out as the Graz Schumpeter Lectures in 2004. (In this respect I followed in the footsteps of Brian Loasby, whose 1996 Graz Lectures won the 2000 Schumpeter Prize.) The book (which Routledge is to publish) mixes intellectual history and economic history, tracing the (remarkably similar) Weberian accounts of Schumpeter and Chandler, who see the large managerial corporation as the apotheosis of “rational” economic organization, and confronting those accounts with the rather contrary evidence of the last quarter century — what I call the Vanishing Hand thesis. At least until I sign the rights over to Routledge, the manuscript is available here.
More substance next time.