Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy remains one of the greatest works of social theory written this century. When it first appeared the New English Weeklypredicted that `for the next five to ten years it will cetainly remain a work with which no one who professes any degree of information on sociology or economics can afford to be unacquainted.' Fifty years on, this prediction seems a little understated.
Topics: Politics, Capitalism, Democracy, Communism, Government, Economy, Informative, Essays, and 1940s
Published: Start Publishing LLC an imprint of NBN Books on Oct 1, 1989
This is one strange book. It's in part a great work by a first rate mind brimming with wise insights in economics, political theory, history and sociology. But other parts of the book made me shake my head and wonder why they have been included at all. I have to admit, I did not read this book all the way to the end.To begin with, some of the arguments about the demise of capitalism (part 2) and the inevitable rise of socialism (part 3) are so absurd, even when discounted to 1942, that I must assume that Schumpeter was jesting. For example (pages 193-199), he writes that socialism is superior to capitalism because it will experience no cyclical ups and downs, because improvements can be spread by decree, because the division between private and public will no longer exist and because useless vocations such as lawyers will no longer be needed.Indeed, the introduction (not written by Schumpeter) states that Schumpeter's argument drifts into irony and satire. It's a mystery to me what message he sought to convey satirically, but it's entertaining nevertheless. But by far the most interesting part of the book to me was part 4. It contains Shumpeter's insightful theory of democracy, which came to be quite influential in the 20th century through successors such as Robert Dahl. In my opinion this book deserves to be studied primarily for its political theory, not so much for its satirical analysis of capitalism. The remaining parts of the book are Part 1, which is about Marx, and part 5 which is a history of socialist parties. I presume that Schumpeter's intention was to illustrate his theories with a study of recent political history. But to me part 5 seemed quite uninteresting and totally irrelevant in relation to the preceding parts of the work. The final 50 pages of the book (2008 Harper edition) contain some kind of a running commentary on postwar international politics, which I pretty much skipped. As I said, it's a strange, even incoherent book, but for the most part an intellectual ride worth taking.read more
An important work, even now. Schumpeter describes all of the strengths of Capitalism, but also subjects it to careful criticism. That which makes Capitalism so effective - creative destruction - could also be the source of its own demise.read more
A book worth highly worth reading not just for its popularization of the concept of "creative destruction" but because of the insight it provides into the state of attitudes towards capitalism at the time of writing; its surprisingly quite fair treatment of Marx, and its concomitant criticisms of certain doctrines of free market capitalism; its interesting views on monopoly and the value of big business; and lastly, for its views on democracy and its compatibility with socialism (however much one may disagree with his very pared-down picture of democracy).read more
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