In his recently published book, “Theorizing Entrepreneurship for The Future,” anthropologist Joost Beuving offers fresh insights into entrepreneurial behavior. Beuving’s extensive studies and fieldwork in countries such as Greece, West Africa, and the United States reveal striking similarities in entrepreneurial behavior worldwide. He challenges the common notion that entrepreneurial success is solely based on rational anticipation and well-thought-out planning, arguing that it is often influenced by external circumstances beyond the control of entrepreneurs.
The belief that the free market always leads to increased prosperity is inconsistent with the reality of financial crises and business failures. The 2008 financial crisis raised doubts about this widespread notion, prompting scientific studies on the causes of the crisis and the development of a healthier economy. Joost Beuving contends that understanding the emergence of crises and corporate scandals requires looking beyond the economic perspective of entrepreneurship. In his book, “Theorizing Entrepreneurship for the Future: Stories from Global Frontiers,” he contributes ethnographic insights to the predominantly economic debate.
Beuving draws on his fieldwork studies from the past two decades, including research on second-hand car dealers in West Africa, fish exporters in East Africa, fish-farm business owners in Greece, and investment bankers in America. These diverse case studies shed light on how entrepreneurs perceive the future. Beuving explains that entrepreneurial behavior revolves around “future work,” encompassing actions taken by entrepreneurs to navigate an inherently uncertain future. This includes their discussions about the future, coping strategies for dealing with uncertainty, and their business-related collaborations and conflicts.
The various cases investigated by Beuving demonstrate remarkable similarities. They reveal that entrepreneurs uphold an ideal image of the homo economicus—a self-interested individual who pragmatically weighs the costs and benefits to maximize profit. However, this ideal assumes a level of omniscience about the future that entrepreneurs don’t actually possess. Beuving asserts that many entrepreneurs project confidence outwardly while experiencing internal insecurity. For instance, West African car dealers, despite pursuing financial gain, often live modest lives. Their motivation stems from the hope of striking it big, akin to a gambler’s mentality. Similarly, investment bankers tend to emphasize optimistic visions of the future, even when contradicted by data.
Beuving argues that the media and society have embraced the idealized image of the homo economicus, perpetuating a facade that overlooks the realities of entrepreneurial experiences. His book seeks to shift focus towards the actual behaviors and stories of entrepreneurs, highlighting their reliance on trial and error and the importance of external factors beyond their control in achieving success.
Theorizing Entrepreneurship for The Future. www.berghahnbooks.com/title/BeuvingTheorizing
An anthropological glimpse into entrepreneurial behavior (2023, June 27)
retrieved 28 June 2023
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Shambhu Kumar is a science communicator, making complex scientific topics accessible to all. His articles explore breakthroughs in various scientific disciplines, from space exploration to cutting-edge research.