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Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship

Lund University School of Economics and Management

The social structure of entrepreneurship as a scientific field

Published: 2018-02-27

The concept “entrepreneurship” has become a catch-word. Politicians and policy-makers regard entrepreneurship as a solution to a range of societal problems. In academia entrepreneurship is taught at universities all over the world, and today there are thousands and thousands of academic teachers and researchers that regard themselves as entrepreneurship scholars. Entrepreneurship can truly be regarded as a successful and prosperous scholarly field. In the recently published article The social structure of entrepreneurship as a scientific field, authors Hans Landström, Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship, Lund University and Gouya Harirchi, Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft, reflect on the question: How can we understand the evolution and success of entrepreneurship as a scholarly field? Many studies have analyzed this question from a cognitive perspective, for example, by employing different forms of bibliometric analysis. However, in this study the authors take a social perspective, and focus on how scholars in entrepreneurship tend to create social networks that are bound together by common scientific approaches and shared communication systems. These networks form broader communities of entrepreneurship scholar, and create a more coherent scientific field.

The study shows that entrepreneurship as a scholarly field can be regarded as a phenomena-driven field, and scholars are bound together mainly by a shared communication system and social intersection, whereas theoretical inspiration sources were less important. Thus, entrepreneurship can be regarded as a “social scholarly community”, and it is difficult to argue that entrepreneurship has developed into a larger coherent scholarly community (creating a “discipline”). In the analysis two broader social communities emerged: (1) a scholarly community embedded in entrepreneurship conferences, that seems to be based on a rather eclectic group of scholars with a diversity of approaches, theoretical frameworks, definitions, etc., and (2) a scholarly community related to journals and a group of “Entrepreneurship Economics” scholars, characterized by a stronger domain-orientation as well as specific theoretical and methodological approaches.

In the study, a comparison was also made between entrepreneurship and innovation studies, and it could be concluded that these fields, although closely interlinked and necessary ingredients for creating growth in the economy, seem to have rather different characteristics: innovation as a scholarly field is more theory-driven, and scholars are bound together by their disciplinary and theoretical background.