Schumpeter, Theorist of the Avant-Garde

24 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2020

See all articles by Erwin Dekker

Erwin Dekker

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Date Written: April 2016


This paper argues that Schumpeter’s ‘Theory of Economic Development’ is best interpreted as a theory of the avant-garde, in line with such theories developed by artistic avant-garde at the times, such as the Futurists. The work is not only published around the same time that many avant-garde movements published their important pamphlets and intellectual works, but it is comparable in rhetoric and aims. Schumpeter's original German version of the 'Theory of economic development' is different in important respects from the later German and English version. His notion of the Man of Action - Mann der Tat - is an avant-garde figure, who in whatever domain he is active, can revolutionize that field, and introduce 'the new'. This interpretation is based on comparison between the elements of Schumpeter's theory and the important avant-garde pamphlets and theories of the time. Most importantly the share the following characteristics: wanting to break with past (1), identifying an avant-garde who could force that break (2), finding new ways to represent the dynamic world (3), the embrace of the new and dynamic (4) and the fact that both Schumpeter and the avant-garde promoted a perpetual dynamic process, instead of a specific end-state or utopia (5).

Keywords: Schumpeter, avant-garde, economic development, modernism, Futurism

JEL Classification: B13, B31, Z11

Suggested Citation

Dekker, Erwin, Schumpeter, Theorist of the Avant-Garde (April 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Erwin Dekker (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA

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