Shaviro on Schumpeter

Steve Shaviro has a fantastic entry up on Joseph Schumpeter. I have to go back and reread my copy of Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy before I can respond in more depth, but Shaviro has some great points to make, and the Nietzsche connection he draws is not one I ever would have thought of.

As Shaviro mentions, Schumpeter more than gave Marx his due; he tore up widely-held generalizations about Marx and de-Hegelized him in order to isolate his general socio-economic sensibilities from the ideas of Communism. In that light, his ideas on class structure (independent of class warfare) and its impact on society become, as Schumpeter says, useful to thinkers on the economic left and right alike. Schumpeter at points appears to try to push Marx into a conservative reformist category; he is not convincing on this point, but the vaguely anarcho-capitalist politics that result share a visionary spirit with those of Marx. And like Marx, he distrusts the intellectuals.

Shaviro says that Schumpeter’s prophecy of an increasingly socialized state hasn’t come to pass and will not, because the flaws in capitalism Schumpeter identifies–the death of entrepreneurship, e.g.–are those that are caused by the triumph of capitalism, not its downfall. I’m not so sure. The one thing the radical/conservative Republican revolution has not brought back is smaller government (has there ever been an administration who did?). While people have argued over whether the religious fundamentalist leanings of the administration are real or just posturing (I would say somewhat the latter), there’s no question that the Republicans’ (and often Democrats’) “smaller government” claims are total bullshit, designed to convince people that the money for their tax refunds will be there when it comes time to pay the piper. Instead, there is the increasing consolidation of power under the executive branch, favoritism towards a select set of companies that are cronies of the administration, and a near-total dismissal of states’ rights except on conservative social issues, which is where they get the votes.

It’s not a socialized state per se, but nor is it one that would allow for Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” brought to fruition. Likewise, the administration is devoid of anything that could be reasonably called an intellectual, but it’s full of people that share the same impractical elements that Schumpeter disliked: ideologues. Schumpeter defines intellectuals as “people who wield the power of the spoken and written word. . . [in] the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” Shaviro thinks this means folks like him (and I guess myself). Well, I don’t feel any power in my words, but I know some people whose words have great power and who never take responsibility for how they affect practical affairs, and do I need to say who they are? The neocons, the AEI, the Heritage Foundation, Fox News, and the Cabinet themselves. Whether this is capitalism triumphant (Shaviro’s view) or capitalism betrayed (Schumpeter’s view) is more a matter of opinion.