Schumpeter after the Great Acceleration: climate crisis and democracy

Please cite the paper as:
Jamie Morgan, (2024), Schumpeter after the Great Acceleration: climate crisis and democracy, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2024, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 80 years later, Looking at capitalism today in light of its past and possible future


Schumpeter has always been difficult to categorise. His work has provoked many years of interpretation and reinterpretation (see e.g. da Graça Moura 2002, 2015) and concomitantly has been appropriated and put to new purposes at opportune moments (e.g. Schumpeter 2009). One important question today is whether Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (Schumpeter 1952 [1942]) speaks to our current predicament – variously described as omni-crisis, poly-crisis etc. It could be argued that climate change and ecological breakdown indicate fundamental problems with the legacy of actually existing socialism and communism (state capitalism if one prefers), as well as past and current forms of democracy, and that states as the main unit of territorial law are ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of the ‘great acceleration’ in what Jason Moore describes as the ‘capitaloscene’. Arguments for world statehood as a necessary evolution of the species have been around for a long time, but more recent versions of the argument have emerged, notably the work of Alexander Wendt and Heikki Patomäki (Wendt 2003; Patomäki 2023). Does Schumpeter’s work help us think through the issues raised?

[Paper to follow]


da Graça Moura, M. 2002. ‘Metatheory as the key to understanding: Schumpeter after Shionoya.’ Cambridge Journal of Economics, 26(6): 805-821.

da Graça Moura, M. 2015. ‘Schumpeter’s concept of process and order.’ Cambridge Journal of Economics, 39(4): 1129-1148.

Moore, J. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life. London: Verso.

Patomäki, H. 2023. World Statehood: The Future of World Politics. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Schumpeter, J. 1952 [1942]. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition.

Schumpeter, J. 1986 [1954]. The History of Economic Analysis. London: Routledge [ed. by Elizabeth B. Schumpeter]

Schumpeter, J. 2009 [1942]. Can Capitalism Survive? Creative Destruction and the Future of Global Economy. New York: Harper. [from Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy]

Wendt, A. 2003. ‘Why a World State is Inevitable.’ European Journal of International Relations, 9(4): 491-542.

2 comment

  • Arturo Hermann says:

    It is a very interesting perspective, so that a question comes to the fore: how can a world state – or, at least, a better supranational governance – be realised, and with what effects on the evolution of capitalism, socialism and democracy?

  • Edoardo Pizzoli says:

    Schumpeter’s work probably helps us to come back to studying the first attempt in the human history, after the 1917 revolution in Russia, to run an alternative economic system on a rational and “scientific” basis. This was the first socialist economy ever created, after decades of elaboration of socialist thought in industrialized countries. As we know, this “experiment” ended after 70 years of central-state planning with a general collapse in Central and Eastern-Europe.
    The economic culture of material growth and technological knowledge in this economic system was the same as in capitalistic countries: this implied no care to the natural environment and little measurement of it until the unheeded warnings of the early 1970s by MIT, Club of Rome and Worldwatch Institute. From this perspective, it would seem that not many suggestions come from both systems for today.
    Nowadays, we know the extent of human causes (namely, at core, economic activity alongside population growth) on climate change, based on growing measurements. We also have some insights into what new development paths governments should follow but the present winning economic systems seem inadequate.
    Shumpeter with his provocative way and his irony, based on his Marxist economic background form Böhm-Bawerk and the Austrian school, designed a scenario of the decline of capitalism and its transformation towards “socialism”. He knew that the economic crisis and instability are inherent in the system that today seems winner in the competition with socialism since the end of the last century; this therefore seems contrary to Schumpeter’s prediction. We now have the great opportunity to verify his assumptions underlying his conclusions and this should allow us to understand what type of economic system we are moving towards now.
    Do you believe that Shumpeter’s analysis can help us to understand whether there are still systemic ways out for the governments to reach the right sustainable development path or do you conclude that they will no longer be able to control the dynamic of the system? Can sciences still provide governments, in some way, with effective and implementable tools in this challenging world?

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