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Fortunately, Schumpeter’s talent for economics rivaled his talent for seduction, so his bold ideas never became irrelevant, even though Schumpeter’s contemporaries showed more enthusiasm for Keynesian economics.

Despite renewed interest in Schumpeter’s concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship, Mr. McCraw laments that studying the scholar’s “favorite issues … has become a quick ticket out of [an academic economist’s] job.” Ironically, Schumpeter’s willingness to tackle dauntingly broad topics has limited his academic appeal: Schumpeter’s qualitative, multidisciplinary approach to unraveling capitalism’s mysteries cannot be easily translated into mathematical expressions, the language of today’s economics.

Yet Mr. McCraw persuasively argues that Schumpeter’s ideas are still critical to understanding capitalism, especially in light of the economic upheavals wrought by globalization and information technology. In fact, the seemingly breakneck pace of innovation that marks today’s global economy makes Schumpeter’s thoughts more relevant.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to link the scholar’s theories about capitalism’s creative destruction to his tempestuous life — and Mr. McCraw succumbs. But even though the seams on Mr. McCraw’s “whole” Schumpeter are showing, “Prophet of Innovation” is an immensely entertaining read.

Marisa Morrison is an apprentice editor at the National Interest.