Mariana Mazzucato writes in the article The Entrepreneurial State (I uploaded it here in case the article gets removed some point in the future):
Entrepreneurship, like growth, is one of the least understood topics in economics. What is it? According to the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, an entrepreneur is a person, or group of people, who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation. It is not just about setting up a new business (the more common definition), but doing so in a way that produces a new product, or a new process, or a new market for an existing product or process. Entrepreneurship, he wrote, employs ‘the gale of creative destruction’ to replace in whole or in part inferior innovations across markets and industries, simultaneously creating new products including new business models, and in so doing destroying the lead of the incumbents (Schumpeter, 1942; 1949). In this way, creative destruction is largely responsible for the dynamism of industries and long-run economic growth. Each major new technology leads to creative destruction: the steam engine, the railway, electricity, electronics, the car, the computer, the internet have all destroyed as much as they have created but led to increased wealth overall.
For Frank H. Knight and Peter Drucker, entrepreneurship is about taking risk (Knight, 1921; Drucker, 1970). The behaviour of the entrepreneur is that of a person willing to put his or her career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of an idea, spending much time as well as capital on an uncertain venture. In fact, entrepreneurial risk-taking, like technological change, is not just risky, it is highly ‘uncertain’.
There seems to be a lack of more philosophical analysis of entrepreneurship, at least in the writings of economists – literature from the beginning of 20th century surely doesn’t reflect the most recent understanding or scientific knowledge on entrepreneurship. Patricia Thornton’s article Sociology of Entrepreneurship (backup here) seeks to widen the understanding on entrepreneurship from a sociological viewpoint.
In a way the entrepreneur is part of the historical continuum in the line of prophets, philosophers and scientists.
I am, however, more interested in the cultural discourses here. What does the entrepreneur symbolize? What characteristics does he embody? Could we consider the entrepreneur a hero of the prevailing economical worldview?
The entrepreneur has a lot in common with the cultural figure of the prophet. A prophet is a person who “is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people”. Prophets can be considered heroes in religious discourses, much like figures such as Martin Luther is the hero of protestantism and Galileo Galilei is a hero in science.
In business, the entrepreneur is the prophet with the divine understanding: he receives a vision of the world and starts to see things “as they truly are”, comes up with novel and necessary ideas and establishes an organization that promotes those ideas through new services and products.
In a way the entrepreneur is part of the historical continuum in the line of prophets, philosophers and scientists. When the prophet gets the idea: “We should build a temple for God”, the philosopher asks: “What is God?”, the scientist asks: “What is the best way to build a temple?”, and the entrepreneur immediately comes up with the idea: “A temple would be a great marketplace for selling pigeons.”1
Mohammed receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D.