Abstract: Toward a Dynamic Model of American Entrepreneurship

David B. Sicilia


This paper is about a vital middle ground—between general theories of entrepreneurship, and detailed empirical case studies of entrepreneurship. The approach begins with a set of general principles and definitions—or persistent traits—in the Schumpeterian mode, but moves on to identify the entrepreneurial challenges that are salient in a given historical context—variable behaviors. Applying this approach in three time periods of American history (the mid-seventeenth century, mid-nineteenth century, and mid-twentieth century), I draw upon recent literature on the history of U.S. capitalism, which has enjoyed renewed vitality compared with the more stagnant historiography of American entrepreneurship. My approach also connects the history of entrepreneurship with leading interpretations in American history, in particular republicanism and middle-class consumption, and points the way toward a new, dynamic stage model that is neither unidirectional nor progressive like those of N.S.B. Gras and Alfred Chandler.