The Genealogy of Creative Destruction

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The notion of creative destruction derives from the Hindu god Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer, who embodies the paradox of the principle of creation-destruction, the continuous balancing of birth and annihilation which is a necessity for the continuity of the Eternal. This necessary coupling of creation and destruction was introduced into German philosophy most likely through Herder (perhaps the first great multi-culturalist in Western thought), and would influence Hegel’s` central concept of dialectic movement (Aufheben) where development requires creation of the new through the perishing of the old. It was Nietzsche who made creative destruction a popular trope of early modernism (through its articulation in Schopenhauer) with the important difference that for Nietzsche the process of creative destruction was not necessarily part of historical development (like Hegel) but a kind of sacrificial event which he related to Dionysian violent creativity which was necessary for humanity’s negative evolution to proceed.

Today, the expression "creative destruction" is mostly associated to the economist Joseph Schumpeter and his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, where the term “creative destruction” is used to describe the inevitable process of economic change through innovation and resulting changes in labor and markets. As such, creative destruction, as an economic principle, came from Marx, who articulated the same ideas in The Communist Manifesto, the Grundrisse, and Capital.

We are of course in the midst of a monumental shift in the global economy where the Marxist-Nietzschean dialectic of creative destruction is at work though posthhuman technological progress: millions of jobs will be destroyed through the advent of automation which will result in fundamental changes in capitalism itself (some have predicted the end of capitalism or at least a quite different postcapitalism). This creative destruction, which most economists saw/see as the inevitable result of technological innovation, seems to be occurring no matter what rustbelt Americans or Brexit Brits voted for. Shiva’s dance continues. 

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