Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

An actor of change: The entrepreneur of Fritz Redlich

Poettinger Monika, Luigi Bocconi University

Fritz L. Redlich (1892–1978), completed his degree in economics in Berlin in 1914 when the historical school still dominated the field in the person of Gustav Schmoller. His PhD research was already dedicated to a business history study: the German tar industry, while his attempt at obtaining a teaching qualification based on a research on the historical and economic significance of advertisement. Redlich himself withdrew his dissertation after the Nazis seized power in 1933 and three years later left Germany for the United States. He taught in several universities and also served in the public administration, all the while writing on the American Steel and banking industries, supported and sponsored by Frank Taussig. A major breakthrough in his career was the call to participate in the foundation of Harvard’s Research Center for Entrepreneurial History. There, in continuous confrontation with Schumpeter, Cole and many other researchers in matters of entrepreneurship, Redlich developed an interesting epistemological foundation for the newly-born business history. He distinguished between research on the actor and on the action. Entrepreneurs could be studied as an ideal type, in theory, as a real type, in analytical empirical research, and as simple businessman in case-studies and biographical reconstructions. The action of entrepreneurs could be researched in regard to the goals and meaning of their enterprises, to the economy as a whole and to the community at large. Entrepreneurs could interact with all of the three aforementioned spheres of action, influencing not only the profitability of their ventures but also the development of an economy or the well-being of a community. As such, researching entrepreneurship only from the theoretical point of view would be limitative for Redlich. Business history should also attempt to ‘verstehen’, becoming part of the social sciences. The paper will analyse the methodological works of Fritz Redlich and his participation to


Keywords: younger historical school; business history; Fritz redlich; Alfred D. Chandler; Joseph A. Schumpeter; aristocratic entrepreneurship

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