Entrepreneurial Action

(Last modified February 2008)

This theoretical project draws on and culminates a series of empirical studies that have been conducted within the research unit in the past ten years. Focal point of these investigations were the generational formation of the founding cohort of entrepreneurs in the southwest German Bundesland Baden-Württemberg, analyses of generational transitions in German elites from the Bonn to the Berlin Republic, and a typological reconstruction of leadership constellations in complex organizations.

Taking as its point of departure the discovery of the entrepreneur as a figure that stands for societal innovation, this work will examine the logic of entrepreneurial action in politics and business, as well as in the arts or scholarship.

Key aspects of the work of entrepreneurs are implementing a “new combination” (Schumpeter), successfully outdistancing competitors and other players, creating and maintaining bonds with associates and partners, and, most importantly, deploying the kind of energy that promotes the process as a whole. The entrepreneur is a border-violator and norm-infringer who suspends routine forms of inclusion and exclusion. These characteristic traits create a proximity to other subversive figures, such as the adventurer, the partisan, or the nomad, but the entrepreneur’s motive is to utilize an order from within that order, rather than to elevate himself or herself above the established order by changing to another. In this sense, the project follows a remark made by French philosopher Georges Canguilhem, according to which, from the standpoint of logic, a deviation indeed follows the definition of the norm, but, from a historical perspective, the deviation, as a later development, must be assigned higher priority.

In contrast to purely structural interpretations of processes of innovation, the approach applied here emphasizes the special psychology of the innovator. In contrast to purely psychological perspectives that relate primarily to the personality of the entrepreneur or leader, this work will highlight the interactive and transitive constellation, as an essential element of innovation.