One of the great aportations of Schumpeter was his approach to the Economy from different points of view, not just from a mathematical, technical or mechanical one, but from the diverse social sciences: human history, sociology, anthropology and even psychology.
I love his concept of the business cycles. They are based on the creative destruction idea. That’s the process that the entrepreneur leads, supported by innovation, to destroy the old way processes were run and substitutes them for new ones. Destruction and creation both at the same time. That means a whole cycle: birth and death. That was in 1911.
But Schumpeter wasn’t the only one talking about cycles. Kitchin also did, in1923, from Harvard. His cycles were bigger than the already well known seasonal cycles, lasting for approximately four years. They were to be known as stocking/destocking cycles.
The legend says that Rothschild had already discovered the cycles before, on Wall Street, around the beginning of the XXth Century. But, instead of making his name famous, decided to use them to fill his pockets. A group of investors followed and, with the help of mathematicians, they found a 41-month investing stock cycle in 1912. If they became rich, they didn’t become rich enough: as of today we don’t know their names. And the cycles are still named after Kitchin (slimmed down to 40 months).
Later, new longer cycles were supposedly discovered: Juglar cycles, around 9-10 years and Kuznets cycles, around 15-20 years…
And there are also Kondratiev waves, around 48-60 years, and the most disputed of them all. There are supposedly a few Kondratiev cycles identified: The Industrial Revolution (1787-1842), The Bourgeois Kondratiev (1843-1897), The Neo-Mercantilist Kondratiev (1898-1950?) and the The Fourth Kondratiev (1950?- 2010?). The numbers with interrogation marks are of course just approximations written long ago. Could we be close to the end of the Fourth Kondratiev? In any case the projections didn’t know anything about subprimes, wars or energy prices. And Nikolai Kondratiev was a Soviet economist (not that the fact discredits him but he was kind of eager to prove that Western capitalist economies were susceptible to high performance volatility opposed to planned ones).
But, even not having any cycle under his name (an injustice from my point of view) it was Schumpeter who already identified and described the four phases of every cycle: boom- recession-depression-recovery. It’s the existence of the four phases that converts a fluctuation into a cycle. A stubborn aspect of reality that tends to repeat itself (not only in Economy though). This page of the National Bureau of Economic Research about Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions is interesting enough.
Yet again cycles catch so many off-guard. It’s interesting to see…