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The fundamental ambition that runs through Schumpeter’s contributions is to develop a “general theory” of capitalism which captures its specificity and its wholeness as an economic but also as an institutional, cultural and civilizational phenomenon (Arena and Dangel-Hagnauer, 2002). As Elizabeth Boody-Schumpeter wrote in the introduction of Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis: “He envisaged a theory which might some day synthesize dynamic economics in the same way that the Walrasian system summed up static economics” (Boody-Schumpeter, 2009, p. xxxi).
The interwar period opened a deep questioning among liberal Austrian theorists about the nature of capitalism, especially in its opposition to socialism (Gloria-Palermo, 1999, p. 2). Theorists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek share with Schumpeter a certain concern about the possible end of capitalism. Concerning Schumpeter, this concern shows itself scientifically into a reflection about the life and death of capitalism. It is expressed by a central questioning: “How to avoid sclerosis? How to avoid the end of capitalism?”. This leads Schumpeter to a general thinking about the conditions for a constant renewal of capitalism. That is to say that he is thinking about the conditions that keep it alive and that make it possible to avoid or at least postpone its end (Barrère, 1985; Lakomski-Laguerre, 2002b; Boutilier and Uzinidis, 2012). To question capitalism is therefore to question a process under constant evolution…


Schumpeter theorizes capitalism with a dynamic model by introducing in the static model a new function, the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is the carrier of the innovation, but he needs a purchasing power fund in order to realize his innovation. All three are absent from the static model, yet bankers, capitalists, and entrepreneurs are involved in the capitalist process. So, both capitalists with capital and bankers with credit fulfill the economic function of lending the means of payments. But Schumpeter stresses the crucial role of the banker in the emergence of innovations at the expense of the other central agent in capitalism, the capitalist himself. Indeed, the role and function of the capitalist is minimized in favor of the role of the banker, so much so that the latter can replace the former. The paradox we highlight is that Schumpeter seems to develop a theory of capitalism without capitalists. The relationship between entrepreneur and the banker seems to be enough to impulse the economic evolution. The aim of this article is to question the triptych of entrepreneur-capitalist-banker through their respective relationships and functions in the Schumpeterian model. The distinction among these different actors and the apparent paradox of a capitalism without capitalists makes it possible to highlight the Schumpeterian definition of capitalism, which places money at its core. Thus, the capitalist evolution is driven by a set of means whose heart lies in the phenomenon of borrowed money and credit creation.
JEL Classification: B15, B25, B31, B52

  • Schumpeter
  • capitalist
  • entrepreneur
  • banker
  • innovation
  • credit
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