Academic journal article New England Journal of Entrepreneurship

The Roots of Entrepreneurship Research

Academic journal article New England Journal of Entrepreneurship

The Roots of Entrepreneurship Research

Article excerpt

Research in entrepreneurship has a long tradition and there is considerable knowledge within the field. However, in many instances, researchers today do not do their "ground work" sufficiently well; they do not build on existing knowledge in a convincing way. By means of a historical review, it is possible to show researchers that they can build further on the knowledge already available in the field. Furthermore, entrepreneurship is a multidisciplinary topic. It can be beneficial to borrow concepts and models from other disciplines if this is done in a conscious and critical way. At the same time, it can be questioned whether the variety within the field of entrepreneurship research is sufficient. Entrepreneurship research should display a great deal of openness towards other disciplines and other methodological approaches.

Finally, research can live with unclear definitions, even in the case of central concepts, a much more central problem has to do with what constitutes the unique character of entrepreneurship research (ie., defining the boundaries of the field of research).

T he study of entrepreneurship has become one of the fastest growing fields of research in the area of management over the last few decades. Interest has been stimulated by the fact that politicians and decision-makers have come to regard small and new businesses as the solution to unemployment and stagnation in the economy. Even if the research within the field has expanded in scope, many argue that entrepreneurship research can be regarded as a young field of research. They argue that it still suffers from a "liability of newness" with insufficient resources for basic research and difficulties in being legitimated in comparison with more welldeveloped research fields. However, researchers have discussed the concept of entrepreneurship for several centuries and there is a long tradition of research to fall back on. Thus, it is important to bring to light the historical basis of entrepreneurship research.

It is also important to recognize entrepreneurship as a multidisciplinary phenomenon. Entrepreneurship involves everything from the single individual to society as a whole, and many different scientific disciplines have shown interest in entrepreneurship research. This has several created problems (e.g., the research has acquired a fragmentary character, making the dialogue between researchers more difficult).

In addition, there is the lack of clear-cut definitions of "entrepreneurship." This has had an inhibiting effect on the research due to difficulties in conducting and interpreting empirical results within different disciplines-the knowledge will not be comparable and does not contribute to the common knowledge base.

The goal of this article is to serve as a contribution to the discussion on the development of entrepreneurship research. It explores the historical basis of entrepreneurship research with a view to highlighting the tradition of the research. The article also describes the multidisciplinary nature of the research in order to point out the difficulties and opportunities created by multidisciplinary research. Finally, it discusses the boundaries of entrepreneurship research with the aim of chiseling out what is unique in entrepreneurship, thereby enabling the "core" of entrepreneurship research to stand out more clearly.

The arguments presented in this article have been mainly taken from historical surveys of the development of the field of research,1 special volumes of journals that deal with the development of entrepreneurship research,2 stateof-the-art book,3 and a survey of classical works in the field.

Early Thinking Regarding Entrepreneurship

In entrepreneurship research, Richard Cantillon and Jean Baptiste Say are often given credit for introducing the concept of entrepreneurship into the literature of economic science. Nevertheless, the concept has a considerably longer tradition. …

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