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