The Battle for the Essence of Entrepreneurship



Abstract: Nicolai Foss and Peter Klein have penned a most remarkable book on the theory of the firm. They offer a rich analysis of the economic organization through the lenses of various approaches including Austrian economics and neo-institutional economics. Their work is a welcome addition to the field of entrepreneurship studies, as it focuses on the role of entrepreneurship within established organizations. While I embrace most of the authors’ conclusions, I disagree with a central piece of their analysis: The rejection of the Kirznerian framework. In establishing judgment as the fundamental explanans of the theory of entrepreneurship, Foss and Klein introduce the bias of seeing entrepreneurship as allocating resources in firms. Moreover, introducing the process of judgment does not offer new insights that cannot be obtained through Kirznerian discovery analysis. Fundamentally, the essence of entrepreneurship is at stake. And it is not a debate about semantics. It is my contention that Israel Kirzner offers a more fundamental theory of entrepreneurship — one that can be applied within and beyond the realm of the firm, and that helps us explain social change, market processes, development, and growth.