For now, and as far down the road as we can see, history has proved Schumpeter wrong on several accounts. As the intellectual class evolved, it was not immune to the capitalist culture of innovation, competition, and choice. Thriving on disagreement, intellectuals generated a competitive marketplace of ideas in which critical perceptions of capitalism vie with analyses that proclaim its virtues.6 By the dawn of the twenty – first century, politically Left-leaning foundations, periodicals, and think tanks in the United States had been well met by the rise of alternative institutes on the Right. Indeed, it has been argued that in recent years the brigades of idea-generating agents on the Right have forcefully influenced the public agenda.7 Not only do the publications of the intellectual class express varying political orientations, but occasionally their positions change over time. Nathan Glazer tells, for example, of how a popular policy journal that began with a liberal tilt drifted to the Right as submissions reflected the increasing energy and powerful ideas generated by conservative think tanks and foundations.8
Rather than undermining the capitalist order, the growth of modern welfare states has shored it up by ameliorating some of the personal costs and insecurities associated with a competitive private market. Indeed, there is credible evidence that since the early 1980s, government-supported institutions of social welfare have quietly shifted from offering programs and benefits geared toward meeting citizens’ needs to advancing welfare reforms designed to serve the needs of the private market.9 Throughout the advanced industrialized countries, unemployment, disability, and social-assistance programs originally intended to protect labor have morphed into schemes to promote work. While forging tight links between benefits and work-related activities, the objectives of recent reforms have been wrapped in a discourse of “activation” (seriously looking for work), “social inclusion” (joining the paid labor force), and “responsibility” (achieving financial independence). The active-inclusive-responsible aspirations of the current discourse smoothly dispense with the initial objectives of income maintenance and social protection against the vicissitudes of life in capitalist society.10 In more forthright terms, these reforms are usually described as a shift from welfare to “workfare."
Along with the advent of workfare, social programs have increasingly come to embrace the market-oriented standards of privatization and choice.11 The Swedish social democratic welfare-state model is often considered the progressive standard for publicly supported social protection. In the early 1990s, however, a system of educational vouchers was introduced in Sweden under which parents who chose to send their children to private schools were entitled to receive a voucher equivalent to 85 percent of the cost of a public education; the value was lowered to 75 percent in 1994. A few years later, the Swedish pension system underwent sweeping reforms, including a measure that allowed taxpayers to invest almost 14 percent of their total contributions to the public system in private individual reserve accounts. According to Mauricio Rojas, a member of the Swedish parliament, this measure “has turned the Swedish people into one of the most capitalist societies in the world, creating an atypical popular interest in the stock market’s ups and downs."12 Sweden’s partial privatization of pensions is not exceptional. Since 1992 thirty countries have incorporated private individual accounts into their mandatory pension systems, including Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary.13
More generally, instead of capitalist societies marching into socialism as Schumpeter predicted, the reverse is happening. The socialist countries of Eastern Europe have flocked from command economies to capitalist-inspired free-market economies. Even in China, which is still firmly in the political grip of the Communist Party, the shift toward what they now call “market socialism" is well under way. Between 1990 and 2003, private firms rapidly increased as the number of employees in state-owned enterprises plunged by 33 percent.14
Time has not confirmed Schumpeter’s bold and provocative forecast of the triumph of socialism.15 As capitalism thrives, however, his analysis of how it contributes to the deterioration of traditional family values remains all the more compelling—and is of particular interest to our inquiry into the impact of social values on women’s lifestyle choices. But what has the status of family life to do with the rise or fall of capitalism? Schumpeter perceived an intimate connection between the bonds of family life and the entrepreneurial spirit. Family bonds reinforced a future-oriented perspective, which encouraged the kind of planning and discipline that kindled entrepreneurial behavior. According to this view, children, in particular, inspire parents to sacrifice material pleasures of the moment in order to save and invest for the future. Children introduce a utilitarian calculus to adult behavior that is at odds with the rational self-interest of childless adults whose worldview is not filtered through the nursery-room windows of a family home.
According to Schumpeter, the absence of children deprives business leaders of the motivation to construct a sturdy roof of economic security to shelter the family line. Without the need and desire to provide for the next generation, the businessman “might be less willing than he was to fulfill the function of earning, saving, and investing even if he saw no reason to fear that the results would but swell his tax bills.” If the decline of family life indeed diminishes a motivating force of entrepreneurial behavior, then the low birthrates and rising number of childless marriages in the 1930s would have posed a serious problem.16 Writing in the summer of 1935, Schumpeter maintained that the capitalist order was being jeopardized by the attenuation of the family unit (he allowed, however, that the bourgeois family still tenaciously clung to life). Although the rising number of childless marriages after World War I was reversed by the resurgence of familism after World War II, the sinking birth and marriage rates since the mid-1960s lend credibility to his observations.