R. Daniel Wadhwani (University of the Pacific & CBS): The Uses of History in the Entrepreneurial Process

Business History Seminar. Dan is the Fletcher Jones Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at University of the Pacific, and a VELUX Visiting Professor in the MPP Department at CBS. A business historian by training, he uses historical approaches to study entrepreneurship, organizations, and industries. His publications have used historical sources and methods to examine the emergence of new industries, the evolution of organizational forms, and the creation of novel market categories and valuation systems. Most recently, he has co-edited Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods (Oxford University Press), which examines the epistemic, theoretical, and methodological opportunities and challenges of using historical approaches in management and organizational research.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 13:00 to 14:30

R. Daniel Wadhwani: The Uses of History in the Entrepreneurial Process

This paper builds on Schumpeter’s (1947) argument that historical perspective is essential in understanding the entrepreneurial process in capitalist economies. In recent years, historians and other social scientists have begun to re-integrate history into studies of entrepreneurship (Landstrom and Lohrke, 2010; Wadhwani and Jones, 2014).  The arguments for the relevance of history in this recent work has most often been based on the importance of understanding entrepreneurship within the context of the development of national economic systems (Landes et al, 2012), in light of historical institutions (Baumol, 1991), or in appreciating the contingent and path dependent nature of entrepreneurial action. In this paper, I examine and elaborate on a less well explored approach that views entrepreneurial actors as reflective agents embedded in the flow of time and capable of engaging and using the past toward entrepreneurial ends (Sabel and Zeitlin, 1997; Popp and Holt, 2013).  Using the case of the development of financial institutions for working-class households in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century United States, I argue that examining how entrepreneurial actors understand and use history offers unique insights into how they identify entrepreneurial opportunities, coordinate resources to engage in entrepreneurial action, and deal with uncertainty.

The page was last edited by: Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy // 01/23/2014