POWER AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN GERMAN POLITICAL ECONOMY: THE CASES OF WERNER SOMBART AND FRIEDRICH VON WIESER

In the present paper we are going to examine texts by Werner Sombart and Friedrich
von Wieser on entrepreneurship and the capitalist economy using an interdisciplinary
approach focused on economics but also dealing with economic sociology and political
philosophy.

We believe that both authors have been largely neglected, thus overlooking
the main source of the theory of the entrepreneur in debates held in German language
and between Germany and Austria around the 1900s. Without excluding earlier major
references (such as Jean-Baptiste Say, the first French economist at the Collège de
France,) we shall demonstrate that for both our authors the entrepreneur is the keystone
of a renewed understanding of capitalism and the modern economy of their times.

They stressed the origins, functions and roles of the entrepreneur and showed that there
cannot exist only a single entrepreneurial form but there must necessarily be several
ones, depending on the context.

Two lessons can be drawn from their texts: 1/ the entrepreneur’s action needs to be reinstalled in the social, economic and institutional context; 2/ the results of the actions of entrepreneurs are inherently difficult to predict
because the action responds to institutional changes and is the outcome of such changes.

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