Abstract

The study of entrepreneurship currently benefits from the contributions of several insightful theoretical paradigms. Economic theories have developed the links between entrepreneurship and market characteristics and processes. Psychological theories have explored the elements of the entrepreneurial spirit. Sociological theories have highlighted the importance of social structures, developmental processes and ecological characteristics. Anthropological studies have further revealed the importance of local context and culture for entrepreneurial activity. Moreover there are visible overlaps in the perspectives and topics pursued by scholars from all of these fields. Importantly, however, most of the theoretical and empirical progress achieved in this field of study, to date, is founded on the importance of entrepreneurship as a key driver of economic growth. But what do we really know about this assumption? In the proposed paper, we argue for the development of a larger systems view of entrepreneurship where entrepreneurship is placed within the context of the larger social system. We take as our point of departure Talcott Parsons’ systems theory (Parsons 1937; Parsons and Smelser 1956). Parsons developed an analytical framework comprised of four key functional imperatives found in every social system - adaptation, goals, integration, and latent pattern-maintenance, otherwise known as the AGIL framework. With development of this framework, Parsons was attempting to draw links between the system level structures and individual level social action. A contemporary of Schumpeter, Parsons specifically addressed the role of entrepreneurship in the overall functioning of society.

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