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This book offers the first full-length treatment of Joseph Schumpeter's political thought. Schumpeter's theory of democracy as a competition among elites has influenced several generations of political scientists, but this book is the first to show that Schumpeter also conceived of democracy as a powerful transformative tendency leading toward the establishment of democratic socialism. Deploring this prospect, he theorized elite-dominated forms of society in which democratic change could be reined in.
The contrasts between the two perspectives are striking. The neglected transformative view, which this book expounds, stressed the importance of democratic beliefs and ideology, whereas the elite conception minimized their significance. The transformative perspective highlighted the radicalizing, dynamic effects of movements that attempt to realize democratic values and act upon democratic ideologies, while the better-known elite model depicted democracy in static terms and as institutionally stable.
Despite the sharp contrasts, both perspectives were part of Schumpeter's complex and deeply conservative response to political change in his lifetime. Precisely because he viewed democracy as a potent transformative social force, he labored strenuously to theorize a form of society in which elites could restrain the pace and nature of democratic change.
Medearis John :
John Medearis is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Riverside.
As Thomas McGraw's comprehensive and well-written biography convincingly shows, Schumpeter succeeded in becoming the "prophet of innovation" by pioneering the vision of a superproductive world of continuing competitive struggle in a nexus of more or less open financial and economic markets. It's never easy to make economics come alive on the page, particularly for readers not steeped in the discipline, but McGraw does his best to balance rigor and accessibility. He gives careful attention to the various elements of Schumpeter's life, focusing, naturally, on his work...McCraw's biography is a major step toward Schumpeter's restoration in the pantheon of modern economists.
This is the first book-length study of Schumpeter's influential theory of democracy. Contrary to received views, Medearis argues that Schumpeter held two views of democracy; the well-known account of democracy as a method of rule by elites who gain power through competitive elections, and a second, transformative vision of the democratization of all spheres of life, including the economy, by replacing hierarchal structures of authority with egalitarian and participatory structures...The book is important not only for students of Schumpeter's thought but also for democratic theory generally as it defends a radical vision of democracy rooted in the democratic socialist projects of the late-19th and early 20th centuries...Recommended.
This is an outstanding piece of scholarship. It provides an original slant on the political economy and the democratic theory of Joseph Schumpeter. It completely redefines Schumpeter's place within democratic theory. And, given his importance to the development of democratic theory, it significantly reshapes how we understand the debate between competitive models of democracy and participatory ones. Moreover, it untangles a number of asymmetries in Schumpeter's most influential work, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, that have dogged readers for decades. This book has made me understand Schumpeter's account of the tendential movement of capitalism to socialism, his famous competitive elite theory of democracy, and his aristocratic conservatism in a completely new light.
Medearis's thesis is both controversial and compellingly defended. This lucidly written book will be widely debated and will change the way in which Schumpeter's theory of democracy is seen.
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