viernes, 17 de agosto de 2012

J.A. Schumpeter (desde su biografía - 9)


“As Schumpeter became ever more absorbed in his work, he paid increasing attention to history as the key to understanding not only capitalism but economic life in general. This shift is clear in the three big books he wrote during the 1930S and 1940S: Business Cycles, which appeared in 1939; Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, in 1942; and History of Economic Analysis, issued posthumously in 1954. All together, the three total about two million words.


Schumpeter’s final book is also primarily a work of history, as its title suggests. In the mammoth volume, he covers the intellectual history of his discipline over the space of more than two thousand years, and in the process he delves deeply into the sociology of knowledge in general. The renowned economist Jacob Viner described Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis as “by a wide margin, the most constructive, the most original, the most learned, and the most brilliant contribution to the history of the analytical phases of our discipline which has ever been made.” It remains so to this day.

Toward the end of his life, Schumpeter issued a remarkable credo about the primacy of history. Of the three basic buildings blocks of economics –Theory, statistics, and history- he wrote that the last “is by far the most important.”

[Schumpeter:] I wish to state right now that if, starting my work in economics afresh, I were told I could study only one of the three but could have my choice, it would be economic history that I should choose. And this on three grounds. First, the subject matter of economics is essentially a unique process in historic time. Nobody can hope to understand the economic phenomena of any, including the present, epoch who has not an adequate command of historical facts and an adequate amount of historical sense or of what may be described as historical experience. Second, the historical report cannot be purely economic but must inevitably reflect also “institutional” facts that are not purely economic: therefore it affords the best method for understanding how economic and non-economic facts are related to one another and how the various social sciences should be related to one another. Third, it is, I believe, the fact that most of the fundamental errors currently committed in economic analysis are due to lack of historical experience more often than to any other shortcoming of the economist’s equipment.”

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