Though I am only meditating on some thoughts inspired by one of those "Great Economists" cd lectures, I think much of it is right as I'm somewhat familiar with it. Nevertheless this will be part reflection and part avenues for further questions.
first off, the focus on entrepreneurs is clearly something we've absorbed completely, as is the idea that technology is what leads to a re-invigoration of the business cycle. How the latter has anything to do with a Kondratieff wave is a bit puzzling to me--especially when the length of the wave varies. On the other hand, it makes more sense to me that, if there is any wave in the long duree, it doesn't have a chronological pattern but is due more to something intrinsic to the situation. This seems to be more like Marx, however, so I don't know what Schumpeter would say about that.
As for the work on the inevitablity of socialism, Timothy Taylor, who gave the lecture, points to the government intervention in the economy as evidence of this. I don't deny that we have more government intervention than in the 1920s, but I have also heard interpretations of Schumpeter that point out the ways that, first of all, the bureaucratization of corporations is also undeniably getting larger as is another factor that is central to Doug Henwood's account of the "New Economy:" the predominance of business and commercial decisions made on the basis of increasing stockholder control. Since the stockholders are technically a kind of public--and one which is actually far more touchy about how much insecurity they will put up with--this could be seen as another aspect of the bigness that both destroys the entrepreneurial possibility and leads to a type of control from above.
This is all the more the case when one considers the class dimension of this: as the government attempts to abandon more and of its responsibilities and they are left to different forms of non-government actors (who, as Harvey points out, merely enable the system--a wierd kind of leftist version of conservatives' resistance to welfare) and as more of the course of society is set by publicly traded conglomerate corporations, the rights of laborers and consumers will inevitably take a backseat to the absentee owners of these companies who care less about the substance of what the companies make or do than that they produce a good return.
To tie this back into another line of thinking I have been considering, this is even the case with the country as a whole and actually creates the aforementioned situation of government abandonment of social programs. This is obviously not happening as much in "developed" countries than in places where these institutions were less entrenched--or, as Taylor might put it, where they aren't as far along the road to socialism. But from the beginning of the attempt to turn this around, and even before, in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the power of labor and citizen/consumers has been second to the importance of fighting inflation.
People talk about the importance of Growth--but the emphasis on Growth (also possibly founded in Schumpeter--alongside the tremendous growth of the post-war era) has been around for some time: the question was how to create it. The flipside, of course, was how to keep inflation from undoing it. As I understand this process, the growth produces more wealth, but the power of labor in the equation of post-war embedded liberalism made it inevitable that this growth be shared among all the people who helped produce it (or all those who were perceived to help produce it, something that will become more important later). This made it an economic prediction that more growth would also produce more inflation because, in a mutually constitutive way, the as wages went up, stuff cost more to produce and the price of it on the market would thereby be forced up which, in turn, made wages need to rise to meet necessities. Maybe I am interpreting this in too Marxian a way, but it also seems to be the way that inflation was figured during the period of embedded liberalism when capital controls made it less likely that currency speculation was actually the problem. Inflation, as I think I've mentioned before, was centered on a basket of commodities that consumers would need to purchase. The price mechanism, therefore, was the index of inflation, but it was the price of more traditional commodities, rather than the "false commodity" of money, to invoke Polanyi.
This was fine as long as growth continued, as was, as Harvey pointed out, the higher levels of taxation and government spending which raised a more general social wage alongside the growing wages for labor. But with the incidence of "stagflation" a combination of both inflation and slow growth--something that was seen as an economic improbability at the time--in the early 1970s, there was a crisis of the dominant theory of economic growth. The narrative here is usually that this was replaced by neoliberalism, but it seems like there was more fishing than that at this point. In part, the release of the dollar from gold and its attachment, for all practical purposes, to oil (through the politically propped up recycling of Saudi and, by extension, OPEC petrodollars into US banks) was meant to help keep some growth, but it shifted the method of the growth from the expansion of the economy in real terms to the growth of a deregulated financial sector. The latter process seems to have been enhanced and enabled by the petrodollar recycling as well, making, as some commentators have pointed out, the globalization of finance possible.
This is, of course, about the time that Daniel Bell predicts that we will soon live in a post-industrial society, a social structure in which the intellectual labor will be most valued and important (another thing that even Schumpeter couldn't have predicted, at least in ideological terms: along with the leftist intellectuals who did what he predicted they would, there were a whole bunch if enterprising conservative thinkers who basically decided that instead of overturning the system because their labor wasn't valued, they would simply shift the way that work was valued, making the "creative class" the ones who would be best rewarded.) But this overzealous prediction was based, again, on an endogenous understanding of growth: though Bell says several times that other countries will still be producing stuff, they will still be industrial, I haven't found anywhere that he says how we will relate to them.
The idea of the international division of labor, which could be said to originate in world systems theory, but eventually makes it into the more mainstream schools of international political economy, is basically a restatement of the Ricardo theory of competative advantage...
all of this will better outlined in the field, but what I eventually want to get to is that the emphasis on inflation shifts, it seems to me, from looking at the internal price of a basket of commodities, to the value of the dollar on a set of floating exchange rates. This has the effect, beginning with Volcker who, to remind the Reagan haters, was appointed by Carter, makes the reduction of inflation at any cost a primary necesity--something that is absolutely necessary because of the political linkage with petrodollars, the resultant use of the dollar as a reserve currency. The latter two facts are normally seen as innocuous advantages of seignorage, but recent discussions of "dark matter" make this a bit dicey. And, in any case, the advantage at this point is not so much that, as Milton Friedman said recently on the Charlie Rose Show, we get more from our bonds than we pay out on others--although he lists it as a major advantage--it is that this situation continues. Friedman seemed confident that investors would stay in th dollar despite this short end of the stick. But the reason he gives implicitly, is that inflation is so externally focused at this time, the fact that it is low doesn't mean that people can buy more stuff (though most economists think this is something seignorage does help with). The importance is that millions of people in and outside of the country--many of them in central banks around the world--have entered a bargain with the US that it do whatever is necessary to keep inflation low.