Paul Sweezy: Root of Schumpeter’s Capitalist Pessimism

At Harvard in the 1930s Sweezy was the star grad student of Joseph Schumpeter. Pollin reckons that Schumpeter was thinking of Sweezy, whom he greatly admired, when he wrote in Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, that capitalism would not survive because capitalism breeds intellectual freedom, hence people with critical faculties, and it’s only inevitable that this spirit breeds powerful minds who will turn their guns on the deficiencies of capitalism itself.

Then Schumpeter, conservative himself, wrote that socialism would succeed, maybe unwieldily, but more egalitarian nonetheless, in part because the brilliant thinkers grown dissatisfied with the crassness and injustices of capitalism would also rise to the top in a socialist society, and make it function decently. “And again,” Bob (Pollin) writes, ” who else could he have had in mind here but Paul, his student and protégé?”

–Alexander Cockburn, 2004. “Understanding the World with Paul Sweezy,” CounterPunch, March 6/7.

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