What Entrepreneurship Boils Down To

While entrepreneurship is hardly a “dismal science,” it often appears as a motley concoction of different theoretical frameworks, differing perspectives, and varying definitions. This makes it very difficult to master the entrepreneurship field of study and the extensive literature on all those shapes and forms and functions that have little in common but the word “entrepreneurship.”

As one would expect from the title, all or many of the definitions of and approaches to entrepreneurship are covered in the recently published volume Historical Foundations of Entrepreneurship Research (ed. H. Landström, F. Lohrke; Edward Elgar, 2011). The book’s 18 chapters cover most of the important perspectives and issues in three thematic parts: the historical development, intellectual roots, and economic history of entrepreneurship as a field and research agenda. In one of the chapters, Copenhagen Business School’s Nicolai J. Foss and McQuinn director Peter G. Klein trace the origins of the Kirznerian functional entrepreneurship concept of “alertness” to its Austrian-school roots and compare it with other Austrians’ contributions to the study of entrepreneurship. (The chapter is available here.)

While motley and disparate, the book chapters provide a good overview of what is the study of entrepreneurship — and implicitly point to several reasons why the entrepreneurship function is (still) so “murky and manifold.” Entrepreneurship research still has a long way to go before it is a united field with commonly accepted definitions, theoretical frameworks, and approaches, but as time progresses we are sure to see consolidation as individual approaches are outcompeted, deemed irrelevant or unproductive, or merged.

The question is not if this this will happen, but whether it happens sooner or later — and this is where this volume is an important contribution. It offers insights into the underpinnings of entrepreneurship research and, consequently, why it is such a varied field. And therefore it provides a good starting point for the consolidation process.


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