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Joseph Schumpeter and Gabriel Tarde on Technological Change and Social Evolution

Michaelides, Panayotis G. and Theologou, Kostas (2009): Joseph Schumpeter and Gabriel Tarde on Technological Change and Social Evolution.

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In this paper, we show that the certain elaborations of the French sociologist Gariel Tarde may be traced throughout Schumpeter’s works. More specifically, we show that Joseph Schumpeter’s views were influenced by the French social philosopher and theoretician Gabriel Tarde who delivered a theory of Social Evolution based on Technological Change as its driving force, closely related to the profiteering function of the economy. Also, we demonstrate that Tarde’s approach has striking similarities with the Schumpeterian vision of Economic Development, Change and Social Evolution. But there are similarities in their respective methodological approaches as well. For instance, the most striking similarity is that despite the importance he gave to the social stratum, Tarde, just like Schumpeter’s early approach, never fully admitted the determination of the individual’s will by the social forces. In other words, they both attempted to explain social evolution by means of individual initiative. At this point it should be mentioned that Tarde’s theory has been delivered and published about a decade before the publication of the first edition of Schumpeter’s influential Theory of Economic Development. In this context, much of this similarity in visions could be attributed to Schumpeter having carefully read Tarde and, probably, to certain common intellectual sources of influence. Part of the explanation why this similarity in visions has been inadequately acknowledged, so far, lies in the ignorance of the approaches on which Schumpeter built his treatises. In this framework, after examining the affinities of Schumpeter’s work with Gabriel Tarde, it is evident that certain Schumpeterian elaborations appear to be less unique.

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