Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurship Research in Germany

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurship Research in Germany

Article excerpt

This article explores entrepreneurship research in Germany, paying particular attention to its origins and current "re-emergence." Since the late 1990s, the field has gained ground, as is reflected in an increasing number of entrepreneurship chairs at universities, and the establishment of an annual national entrepreneurship conference. A particular strength of the German approach to researching entrepreneurship, which can be traced back directly to the historical roots, is found to be its consideration of context specificity and embeddedness, going hand-in-hand with a strong multidisciplinary tendency. These are two features where entrepreneurship research in Germany could add a distinctive flavor to the current mainstream debate. In practice, the diffusion of this perspective is inhibited by an insufficient exchange with the international scientific community.


More and more researchers in Germany today study entrepreneurship phenomena. Since the late 1990s, one can observe an increase in publications and in the institutionalization of entrepreneurship research at universities, while an annual conference, the G-Forum, was created in combination with a yearbook of entrepreneurship research, both assisting in fostering the development of a scientific community. During most of the early and mid-twentieth century, entrepreneurship research in Germany was practically nonexistent, while research on small and medium-sized enterprises flourished. Despite its outstanding historical tradition, such as the works of Max Weber and others, current entrepreneurship research is probably best described as a field in its adolescence.

This paper sets out to investigate the development of German entrepreneurship research over time, in order to take stock in the light of the overall development of the field. Several articles have reviewed the development of entrepreneurship research during the last decades, stating a lack of conceptual and paradigmatic development (Ireland, Reutzel, & Webb, 2005; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000) and legitimacy (Busenitz et al., 2003), while reviews of the state of the art across Europe drew attention to the strengths of the European approaches, such as taking into account contextual differences (Huse & Landstrom, 1997). In this context, the paper reviews the field in Germany and progress made with creating legitimacy. It discusses the historical origins of the field, the path of rebirth and consolidation before turning to review themes. The paper then turns to assess whether and to what extent the German approach is distinctive and different, and finally asking about the future of the German approach.

The Origins of German Entrepreneurship Research

Historically, the origins of entrepreneurship research can be traced back to German and German-speaking scholars prominent in nineteenth and early twentieth century, who have had a great influence on economics and sociological disciplines in general. This refers to German scholars such as Karl Marx (1818-1883), Gustav Schmoller (1838-1917), Werner Sombart (1863-1941), and Max Weber (1864-1920), as well as to Austrian economists such as Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) and Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992). Most likely, none of these scholars would have understood himself as an entrepreneurship researcher, but a closer look at their works reveals ideas and themes which are an implicit and explicit part of today's entrepreneurship research in Germany and elsewhere. While much of this "early entrepreneurship" research was concentrated on the entrepreneurial person (Berghoff, 2004; Pribram, 1998; Winkel, 1977), its most important contribution may be in the accentuation of context. As German entrepreneurship research still reflects this idea today, we will briefly introduce the reader to some examples.

Max Weber is not only known as the founding father of modern sociology. Moreover, he analyzed the role religion played for the development of modern economies. …

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