Journal article Open Access

In Search of the Meaning of Entrepreneurship

H. Fabian Weber; Betina Szkudlarek

The following study aims to outline, whether the perceptions of entrepreneurs about their entrepreneurial activities and the underlying meanings of their activities are universal or whether they vary systematically across cultures. In contrast to previous studies, the phenomenographical approach and the resulting findings of this study provide new insights into what constitutes entrepreneurship by drawing an inference from the perceptions of entrepreneurs in the United States and in Germany. Culture is shown to have an important impact on entrepreneurship, since the underlying meanings of entrepreneurship vary significantly among the two sample groups. Furthermore, the study sheds more light on the culturally contingent 'why' of entrepreneurship by looking at the internal motivations of individuals instead of exclusively focusing on character traits or external influences of the respective economic environments.

Files (186.1 kB)
Name Size
186.1 kB Download
  • Audretsch, D. B. and R. Thurik. 2001. "Linking Entrepreneurship to Growth", OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers, 2001/02, OECD Publishing. Available online from: [13-09-2011]
  • Audretsch, D. B., Thurik, A. R., Verheul, I. and Wennekers A. R. M. (2002). Entrepreneurship: Determinants and Policy in a European-US Comparison, Boston/Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Baron, R. A. 2002. OB and entrepreneurship: The reciprocal benefits of closer conceptual links. Research in Organizational Behavior, 24
  • Bergmann, H. and Sternberg, R. 2007. The Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Germany. Small Business Economics, 28: 205-221.
  • Bernstein, R. J. 1995. Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, hermenutics, and praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvannia Press.
  • Beugelsdijk, S., and Noorderhaven, N. 2005. Personality characteristics of self-employed: An empirical study. Small Business Economics, 24: 159-167.
  • Blanchflower, D. G. and Shadforth, C. 2007. Entrepreneurship in the UK. Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship, 3(4): 257-264.
  • Bowden, J. 1995. Phenomenographic research: some methodological issues. Nordisk Pedagogik, 3: 145-155. [10] Brixy, U., Hundt, C., Sternberg, R. and Vorderw├╝lbecke, A. 2010. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) - Laenderbericht Deutschland, 2010. Available online from: [15-04-2011] [11] Burns, J. 1994. Extending critique within phenomenography. In R. Ballantyne and C. Bruce (Eds.), Proceedings of phenomenography: Philosophy and practice, pp. 71-76. Brisbane, Queensland: QUT Publications and Printing. [12] Busenitz, L. W., Gomez, C. and Spencer, J. W. 2000. Country institutional profiles: Unlocking entrepreneurial phenomena. Academy of Management Journal, 43(5): 994-1003. [13] Chinoy, E. 1955. Automobile Workers and the American Dream, Garden City, NY: Doubleday [14] Chrisman, J. J., Chua, J. H. and Steier, L. P. 2002. The influence of National Culture and Family involvement on Entrepreneurial Perceptions and Performance at the State Level. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 26(4): 113-131. [15] Cope, C. 2004. Ensuring validity and reliability in phenomenographic research using the analytical framework of a structure of awareness. Qualitative Research Journal, 4(2): 5-18. [16] Dahlgren, L. O. and Fallsberg, M. 1991. Phenomenography as a qualitative approach in social pharmacy research. Journal of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 8: 150 -156. [17] Davidsson, P. 1995. Culture, structure and regional levels of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 7: 41- 62. [18] Entwistle, N. (1997). Introduction: phenomenography in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 16: 127-134. [19] Evans, D. S. and Leighton, L. S. 1989. Some empirical aspects of entrepreneurship. American Economic Review, 79: 519-535. [20] Gartner, W. B. 1988. "Who is an entrepreneur?" is the wrong question. American Journal of Small Business, 12: 11-32. [21] Gartner, W. B. 1990. What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Entrepreneurship? Journal of Business Venturing, 5: 15-28. [22] Gelderen, M. van, Jansen, P. and Jonge, S. 2003. The multiple sources of autonomy as a startup motive. SCALES paper N200315, Available online from: [12- 11-2011] [23] Gupta, V. and Fernandez, C. 2009. Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in Characteristics Attributed to Entrepreneurs - A Three- Nation Study. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(3): 304-318. [24] Hamilton, R. T. 1989. Unemployment and Business Formation Rates: Reconciling Time Series and Cross Section Evidence, Environment and Planning, 21: 249-255. [25] Hebert, R. F., and Link, A. N. 1989. In Search of the Meaning of Entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 1: 39-49. [26] Henricks, M. 2002. Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide To Creating A Business That Gives You A Life, Perseus Book [27] Hisrich, R. D., Honig-Haftel, S., McDougall, P. P. and Oviatt, B. M. 1996. International entrepreneurship: Past, present, and future. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 20: 5-7. [28] Hsee, C. and Weber, E. U. 1999. Cross-National Differences in Risk Preference and Lay Predictions, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 12: 165-179. [29] Johnson, M. 1987. The body in the mind: The bodily basis of meaning, imagination and reason. University of Chicago Press. [30] Kashima, Y. 2005. Is culture a problem for social psychology? Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 8: 19-38. [31] Keiser, J.C. 2010. Identifying Variations in Thinking about the Nature of Science: A Phenomenographic Study. University of Minnesota, Available online from 31.pdf [12-04-2011] [32] Kirkley, W. W. 2010. Self-determination and Entrepreneurship: Personal Values as intrinsic motivators of Entrepreneurial Behaviour. Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand [33] Kuratko, D. F. 2007. Entrepreneurial leadership in the 21st century: Guest editor-s perspective. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 13(1): 1-11. [34] Landes, D. S. 1998. The wealth and poverty of nations: Why some are so rich and some so poor. New York: W. W. Norton [35] Lee, S. M. and Peterson, S. J. 2000. Culture, entrepreneurial orientation, and global competitiveness. Journal of World Business, 35: 401-416. [36] Leitch, C. M., Hill, F. M. and Harrison, R. T. 2010. The Philosophy and Practice of Interpretivist Research in Entrepreneurship: Quality, Validation, and Trust. Organizational Research Methods, 13: 67-84. [37] Markus, H. R. and Kitayama, S. 1998. The cultural psychology of personality. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 29(1): 63-87. [38] Marton, F. 1986. Phenomenography - A research approach to investigating different understandings of reality. Journal of Thought, 21: 28-49. [39] Marton, F. 1995. Phenomenography [cont.]. The International Encyclopedia of Education, Second edition, 8., Eds. Torsten Husén & T. Neville Postlethwaite, Pergamon, pp. 4424-4429. [40] Marton, F. and S. Booth. 1997. Learning and Awareness. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associate [41] Maslow, A. H. 1943. A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50(4): 370-396. [42] McClelland, D. C. 1961. The achieving society. Princeton, NJ: Van Norstran [43] McCraw, T. K. 1997. "American Capitalism" in Idem (ed.), Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions, Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, pp. 303-348. [44] McDougall, P. P. 1989. International versus domestic entrepreneurship: New venture strategic behavior and industry structure. Journal of Business Venturing, 4(6): 387-400. [45] McDougall, P. P., and Oviatt, B. M. 1997. International entrepreneurship literature in the 1990s and directions for suture research. In D. L. Sexton & R. W. Smilor (Eds.), Entrepreneurship 2000 (pp. 291-320). Chicago: Upstart. [46] McGrath, R. G., MacMillan, I. C., and Scheinberg, S. 1992. Elitists, risk-takers and rugged individualists? An exploratory analysis of cultural differences between entrepreneurs and nonentrepreneurs. Journal of Business Venturing, 7(2): 115-135. [47] Mitchell, R. K., Busenitz, L., Lant, T., McDougall, P. P., Morse, E. A., and Smith, J. B. 2002. Toward a theory of entrepreneurial cognition: Rethinking the people side of entrepreneurship research. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 27: 93-104. [48] Morin, R. 2009. Take this job and love it: Job satisfaction highest among the self-employed. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center [49] Morse, J. M. 1997. ÔÇÿPerfectly healthy but dead-: The myth of inter-rater reliability. Qualitative Health Research, 7(4): 445-447. [50] Peterson, R. 1988. Understanding and encouraging entrepreneurship internationally. Journal of Small Business Management, 26(2): 1-7. [51] Richardson, J. T. E. 1999. The Concepts and Methods of Phenomenographic Research. Review of Educational Research, 69(1): 53-82. [52] Sandberg, J. 1995. Are phenomenographic results reliable? Journal of Nordic Educational Research, 15: 156-164. [53] Sandberg, J. 1997. Are phenomenographic results reliable? Higher Education Research and Development, 16(2): 203-212. [54] Schumpeter, J. 1934. The theory of economics development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [55] Shane, S. 1992. Why do some societies invent more than others? Journal of Business Venturing, 7: 29-46. [56] Silverman, D. 2000. Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. London: Sage [57] Sjo¶üêÀstro¶üêÀm M. B. and Dahlgren L. O. 2002. Applying phenomenography in nursing research, Journal of Advanced Nursing. 40(3): 339 - 345. [58] Spector, P. E. 1988. Development of the Work Locus of Control Scale, Journal of Occupational Psychology, 4: 335-340. [59] Steinmetz, G. and Wright, E. O. 1989. The Fall and Rise of the Petty Bourgeoisie: Changing Patterns of Self-Employment in the Postwar United States. American Journal of Sociology, 94(5): 973-1018. [60] Thomas, A. S. and Mueller, S. L. 2000. A case for comparative entrepreneurship: Assessing the relevance of culture. Journal of International Business Studies, 31: 287-301 [61] Venkataraman, S. 1997. The Distinctive Domain of Entrepreneurship Research. Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth, 3: 110-138. [62] Weber, M. 1930. The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Scribners [63] Wellington, J. 2000. Education research: Contemporary issues and practical approaches. London, UK: Continuum. [64] Wit, G. de and Winden, F. A. A. M. van 1989. An empirical analysis of self-employment in the Netherlands. Small Business Economics, 1 (4): 263-284. [65] Young, R. A., and Collin, A. 2004. Introduction: Constructivism and social constructionism in the career field. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 64: 373-388
  • Åkerlind, G. S. 2005. Variation and commonlatity in phenomenogrpahic research methods, Higher Education Research & Development, 24(4): 321-334.
All versions This version
Views 00
Downloads 00
Data volume 0 Bytes0 Bytes
Unique views 00
Unique downloads 00


Cite as