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What “Creative Destruction” Means

I’m glad Bruce brought up Schumpeter, for it is he, rather than Schumacher, who ought to be the patron economist of crunchy conservatism. Not only did Schumpeter argue that capitalism undermined the very social institutions which gave it birth and guarded its existence, leading to socialism, he pointed out that universal rationalization through cost accounting exposed more natural ordering structures—the classically understood “ties that bind”—to a brutal new calculus in which they did not perform well at all. Commitment to kin, community, and place entail making heavy economic sacrifices and provide benefits not easily entered on a balance sheet. For Schumpeter, the key piece of evidence for his theory was declining birth rates in industrialized nations. As a result, he argued, we have created a new species of “homo economicus” which has lost “the only sort of romance and heroism that is left”—the romance and heroism of “working for the future irrespective of whether or not one is going to harvest the crop oneself.” ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons

This is an important corrective for many a libertarian and “conservative” who will refer to “creative destruction” as if it were a good and highly desirable thing and invoke Schumpeter as if he were a proponent of the social and moral disintegration that he observed at work in such a system. What these people seem to forget, or never knew, is that prophets of “creative destruction” share more with nihilists and anarchists than with any sort of civilised human being. It was Bakunin, after all, who said, “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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