Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

Entrepreneurship: Theory and Application in a University Arts Management Setting

Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

Entrepreneurship: Theory and Application in a University Arts Management Setting

Article excerpt


Initially developed at the dawn of the eighteenth century, the concept of entrepreneurship has been the focus of increasing interest in the area of economics since the nineteenth century and that of higher education since the middle of the twentieth century. Research shows that over the last fifty years in particular, entrepreneurship as an academic discipline has transcended the confines of business textbooks to become a synonym for progressive thought in various disciplines and contexts.1 Additional studies point to the overlap between the arts, creativity, and what is referred to as the entrepreneurial spirit.2 Nonetheless, an irony pervades the current renewal of interest in entrepreneurship within the academy because, despite the proliferation of articles, definitions, personality profiles, and case studies, we are far from any complete understanding of entrepreneurship as such.3 While many approaches to the topic are more codified as a result of either their disciplinary association or their place in the wider history of ideas, current scholarship is also witness to the effort to define entrepreneurship from the perspective of the creative and cultural industries. Given these dynamics, an overview of the subject's theoretical situation is useful to guide and focus the groundswell of interest from within higher learning while offering an informed perspective to a working curricular and pedagogical approach to the specific case of arts entrepreneurship instruction.

Theoretical Overview: Primary Historical Sources

As indicated above, the recent growth of interest in entrepreneurship has resulted in an interdisciplinary approach to the topic. This invites an initial partitioning of theoretical approaches along the lines of the relevant disciplines. However, it is also useful to recognize a common historical development that underpins and informs the more recent, multi-disciplinary perspective. Two groupings would allow for us to connect the "early history" of entrepreneurship thought (18th and 19th centuries) to the more recent history (20th century to present) as it pertains to academic research theories from disciplines including business, sociology, and psychology.4

Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) was the first to develop the idea of entrepreneurship beyond its scattered use since the high Middle Ages (12th century, from the French "entreprendre" designating "to embark on a project"). While contemporary use of the term "entrepreneur"refers to someone undertaking projects (our "enterprise" also comes from the French root), Cantillon was the first to associate this title with specific behaviors. He did this by separating entrepreneurs from landowners and hired hands before describing these two parties as parts of the larger enterprise of connecting products with consumers. Coordinating the moving parts of the project as such is the domain of the entrepreneur according Cantillon's initial formulation.

French political economist Jean Baptiste Say (1767-1832) refined Cantillon's model by expanding its applicability beyond its initial, agricultural setting. Say represented the entrepreneur as an agent bringing together multiple specialists to collaboratively build a productive item. Say also recommended shifting resources from areas of lower productivity to those of higher productivity. This signifies his implicit recognition that external conditions were part of the larger equation for managing entrepreneurial risk, (a consideration later developed by Frank Knight, see below). Say's concept of entrepreneurship is indebted to the English political economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) who conceived of the entrepreneur as an agent for transforming demand into supply.

In 1848, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) published Principles of Political Economy-a text that followed in line with the liberal economic ideology shared by David Ricardo (1772-1823) and Adam Smith. However, in his treatise, Mill took a more pragmatic approach in contrast to Ricardo's theoretical stance identifying entrepreneurship as the fourth factor of production. …

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