Bill Shughart’s Review of Prophet of Innovation

13 November 2008 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

It’s in the December 2008 issue of Managerial and Decision Economics. Excerpt:

Many readers, as I did, will close Prophet of Innovation with a feeling of dissatisfaction. On the plus side, McCraw’s life of Joseph Alois Schumpeter is not as dauntingly long as it seems: Nearly 30% of the volume is devoted to notes and other end matter, and so the text runs to a more digestible 506 pages. Generous line spacing and a respectable number of archival photographs speed the pace of reading.

On the minus side, Prophet of Innovation pales in comparison with the recent and far more penetrating biographies of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow, of J. P. Morgan by Jean Strouse, and of Andrew Mellon by David Cannadine. In the end, one doesn’t know Joseph Schumpeter quite as fully as one now knows those titans of industry. And we certainly don’t know him as well as we know Robert Skidelsky’s John Maynard Keynes, who was born the same year (1863). Something is missing from Prophet of Innovation, perhaps because McCraw chose not to be “concerned with Schumpeter’s economic thinking, narrowly construed” (p. xi). That choice, in my judgment, fatally compromises any attempt to tell the story of a man who lived and breathed economics over a distinguished, remarkably productive academic career that spanned four decades, taking him from the classrooms of the University of Vienna, where he (and Ludwig von Mises) studied under Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, to Harvard Square.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, People.

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