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Opportunity or dead end? Rethinking the study of entrepreneurial action without a concept of opportunity

Kitching, J and Rouse, J (2017) Opportunity or dead end? Rethinking the study of entrepreneurial action without a concept of opportunity. International Small Business Journal. ISSN 0266-2426

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Abstract

This article has two objectives: to critique the dominant opportunity discovery and creation literatures and to propose a new, critical realist–inspired analytical framework to theorise the causes, processes and consequences of entrepreneurial action – one that needs no concept of opportunity. We offer three reasons to support our critique of opportunity studies. First, there are important absences, contradictions and inconsistencies in definitions of opportunity in theoretical and empirical work that mean the term cannot signal a clear direction for theorising or empirical research. Our central criticism is that the concept of opportunity cannot refer simultaneously, without contradiction, to a social context offering profit-making prospects, to particular practices and to agents’ subjective beliefs or imagined futures. Second, a new definition of opportunity would perpetuate the conceptual chaos. Third, useful concepts to capture important entrepreneurial processes are readily available, for instance, combining resources, creating new ventures and achieving product sales, which render a concept of opportunity superfluous. Instead, we conceptualise entrepreneurial action as investments in resources intended to create new goods and services for market exchange emergent from the interaction between agential, socialstructural and cultural causal powers.

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