Adam Smith did not found the science of economics, but he did indeed create the paradigm of the British classical school, and it is often useful for the creator of a paradigm to be inchoate and confused, thereby leaving room for disciples who will attempt to clarify and systematize the contributions of the Master. Until the 1950s, economists, at least those in the Anglo-American tradition, revered Smith as the founder, and saw the later development of economics as a movement linearly upward into the light, with Smith succeeded by Ricardo and Mill, and then, after a bit of diversion created by the Austrians in the 1870s, Alfred Marshall establishing neoclassical economics as a neo-Ricardian and hence neo-Smithian discipline. In a sense, John Maynard Keynes, Marshall 's student at Cambridge , thought that he was only filling in the gaps in the Ricardian-Marshallian heritage.
Into this complacent miasma of Smith-worship, Joseph A. Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis (1954) came as a veritable blockbuster. Coming from the continental Walrasian and Austrian traditions rather than from British classicism, Schumpeter was able, for virtually the first time, to cast a cold and realistic eye upon the celebrated Scot. Writing with thinly veiled contempt, Schumpeter generally denigrated Smith's contribution, and essentially held that Smith had shunted economics off on a wrong road, a road unfortunately different from that of his continental forbears.