Researching Peculiarity of Entrepreneurs: From Positivism to Social Constructivism

By Gamage, Helen R.; Wickramasinghe, Ananda | Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Researching Peculiarity of Entrepreneurs: From Positivism to Social Constructivism


Gamage, Helen R., Wickramasinghe, Ananda, Journal of Entrepreneurship Education


ABSTRACT

This paper attempts to uncover the social reality of entrepreneurship from South Asian context. Socio-culturally-bound actors, social actions and outputs in entrepreneurial activity requires context-sensitivity, expressed through cognizance of institutional characteristics, the interface between cultural values and business, and historical and cultural forces which impact on entrepreneurship. Successful theories of entrepreneurship in the South Asia need to be formed in context sensitivity shaped by local culture and values. This paper, therefore, outlines the development of a research framework and a research process used to better understand links between society, community and entrepreneurial activity in the South Asia. This process brought new insights of the interplay between social realities and the field of entrepreneurial activity.

INTRODUCTION

Entrepreneurial actions are involved with complex human interactions and embraced a range of artifacts and objective realities. As a result, some entrepreneurship researchers observe artifacts and objective realties in the physical world and view them as reality. Others take an open-system or environmental approach emphasising the impact of external environmental factors (socio-economic, political, educational, legal) on entrepreneurial practices and effectiveness. Both approaches result in socio-cultural realities being viewed as secondary influences on entrepreneurial behaviour. Failure to recognise socio-cultural realities is often attributed to reductionist approaches to knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurship. This paper discloses that socio-cultural values are of particular relevance to understanding entrepreneurship as a social phenomenon. The selection of an appropriate subjective ontology is required to understand the context fully. A qualitative research methodology and inductive holistic case study approach including grounded theory analysis are selected to explore peoples' experiences and behaviour. This process brings new insights of the interplay between social realities and the field of entrepreneurial activity.

TRANSFERABILITY OF KNOWLEDGE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN ONE SOCIETY TO ANOTHER

The dominant ideology of entrepreneurship development in the South Asian and developing countries is mostly based on western viewpoints, with the tacit assumption that western ideology is universal. Normative western entrepreneurship and management theories are based on the rationality of logical positivism, but in practice, they have produced unexpected consequences of socio-cultural conflicts in South Asian context (Jayawardena, 2000; Wickramasinghe et al. 2001; Gamage et al., 2004, Chen 2008). Nanayakkara (1999) asserts that training institutions have failed to attract the participation of managers in key positions in organizations into training courses. From this perspective, management and work activities in an enterprise depend critically on socio-cultural values and indigenous management practices.

The validity and transferability of knowledge is questioned based on the utility and impact of such knowledge and cultural diversity. How many transferred ideologies actually take root and bear fruit in the South Asian developing setting is not precisely known. However, concerned researchers, trainers, and entrepreneurs have noted the failure of such "transplants" to lead to ongoing insights (Kao et al. 1999; Wickramasinghe and Hopper 2000, Gamage 2004). The functionalist, rational and positivist framework of the western paradigm does not enable an understanding from a socio-cultural perspective Gamage et al., (2004),) and also difficult to evaluate and understand cultural factors through the lenses of other cultures (Wickramasinghe and Hopper 2000). Different national cultural characteristics mean that the possibility of adopting mainstream entrepreneurial ideas, concepts and theories usefully between nations is highly unlikely because the culture of every day life is complex and not easily ignored. …

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