The Oxford Handbook of Entrepreneurship.
Mark Casson, Bernard Yeung, Anuradha Basu and Nigel Wadeson
Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 89 [pounds sterling], 808pp, 2006.
Both an important reference work in the field of entrepreneurship research and a handbook, this volume has a number of difficult challenges to meet. First, it must be inclusive enough to be valuable to the researcher and serve as an early resource to help identify key concepts and citations. Second, it must also be somewhat discriminating because the actual breadth of a field such as entrepreneurship is so wide that a handbook could require a couple of thousand of pages of text. Handbooks therefore have to help the researcher, and especially the less seasoned academic, determine what is important. For the most part Casson and his associates do succeed in meeting these challenges. Their book is a worthwhile addition to libraries for the doctoral student or even the experienced entrepreneurship researcher. As Casson himself notes, however, this volume is weak in covering research methods and analysis of entrepreneurship research. Here he points us towards Acs and Audretsch (2003), Handbook of Entrepreneurial Research as a companion volume.
In order to be as comprehensive as practical, to keep the various chapter authors on track with a common conception of entrepreneurship, and to reduce the redundancy that could plague an effort such as this, the Handbooks' editors did two noteworthy things. First, they issued a White Paper that helped define entrepreneurship and guide the chapter authors' approach. Second, they had an author's conference to discuss the papers among each other. This process serves the volume well, since the approaches employed are consistent and there is little repetition among the chapters.
The book is divided into seven parts comprising 27 separate chapters. The parts are: Theory and History, Small Firms, Innovation, Finance, Employment, Self-employment and Buyouts, Social and Cultural Aspects, and lastly Spatial and International Dimensions. Although the content has a tendency to focus more on economic work than from the field of management studies, and more on British sources than European or North American, the chapters still have much to offer. There are few references to the entrepreneurial experience in Asia, African or Latin America.
Chapter 27 on Entrepreneurship in transition economies by Saul Estrin, Klaus E. Meyer, and Maria Bytchkova offers a rigorous review of the issues of entrepreneurship in the communist transition to capitalist, proto-capitalist, and pseudo-capitalist models. They note the importance that the differential reform processes in each economy took on the final result. Entrepreneurship manifests itself in different ways in each economy, yet the share of the private economy in each former communist country skyrocketed in the period 1989-2001. The differences in the initial conditions, the speed and consistency of the process, and the legal/managerial implementation of the reform process produced assorted outcomes. And why not? If, as the authors note, each new business is an economic experiment, then similarly, each new reform is also an experiment.
The chapter also points out what I may call 'green field' entrepreneurship has proven to be more successful, robust, and growth-oriented than the privatisation efforts of state reformers. The new ventures created by entrepreneurs--taking risk, making judgmental decisions, creating organisations and reaping profits by absorbing uncertainty--were better suited to the transition than the state-owned enterprises that attempted to reconfigure themselves to meet the new market realities. Too often the privatisation efforts were thwarted by political manoeuvring, corruption and self-dealing, a lack of flexibility, and the wrong incentives. However, much effort by academics and political elites went into trying to make effective privatisation policy only to be subverted by real entrepreneurs, foreign and domestic.
After introducing the topic, Estrin and his colleagues focus directly on the nature of entrepreneurship in the transition economies. They review the functions of and barriers to entrepreneurship in these economies. An exploration of the patterns of entrepreneurship follows. This will help the researcher customise their research for the particular country or economy to be studied. A summary of the attributes of the 'new entrepreneur' follows. The chapter ends with a review of entrepreneurial strategies. As in the Introduction to the book, Estrin et al. concludes that the networking strategy of the entrepreneur and firm are critical strategic elements. For although frequently cast in a competitive framework, the entrepreneur requires the cooperation of many other actors in order to produce a product or service before it even gets to the market.
Sometime in the future the Estrin chapter will require revision because we are observing more transitions than just the one from communism to capitalism. In the past we have observed the transitions from feudal to modern economies in both Europe and Japan. We are currently immersed in the transition from regional to global economies, religious to secular economies (and vice versa) and industrial to post-industrial economies. What lessons we could learn if we paid some attention.
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA