Schumpeter, Kirzner, and the field of social entrepreneurship

Gordon Shockley, Peter M. Frank

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Scopus citations


    Joseph Schumpeter's and Israel Kirzner's 'classical' theories of entrepreneurship have contributed much to the field of entrepreneurship but have been underutilized in the emerging field of social entrepreneurship. The argument of this paper is that the utilization of Schumpeterian and Kirznerian theories of entrepreneurship can advance the field of social entrepreneurship in two ways. The first potential contribution from utilizing their classical theories is to guide theory-building for social entrepreneurship. In this paper, a close reading and interpretation of Schumpeter's and Kirzner's work is undertaken alongside a critique of current theories of social entrepreneurship. Five essential theoretical components of Schumpeterian and Kirznerian classical entrepreneurship theories are distilled with respect to social entrepreneurship theory-building: (1) the distinction between entrepreneurial thinking and rational models of decision making; (2) the distinction between entrepreneurship and leadership, capitalism, and management; (3) the ubiquity of entrepreneurship in all human endeavors; (4) the causal functionality of entrepreneurship; and (5) the priority of the process of entrepreneurship over the instrumentality of the entrepreneur. A research proposition is then constructed on each essential theoretical component. The research propositions point to possible research directions for the field of social entrepreneurship, thus representing the second potential contribution of the paper.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)6-26
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Social Entrepreneurship
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2011


    • Israel Kirzner
    • Joseph schumpeter
    • Social entrepreneurship research
    • Social entrepreneurship theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Development
    • Economics and Econometrics


    Dive into the research topics of 'Schumpeter, Kirzner, and the field of social entrepreneurship'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this