Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 12, Issue 1–2, pp 83–105 | Cite as

Weber, Schumpeter and Knight on entrepreneurship and economic development

  • Maria T. Brouwer
Special Issue


This paper interprets the discussion on entrepreneurship and economic development that started off with Weber's papers on the Protestant Ethic. Weber sought the reason for the relatively rapid growth of the Occident in the rational, Calvinist attitude to life. Calvinism – in his view – exactly suited a society of free labourers, who were not tied to master and soil by extra-economic considerations as in tribal and feudal societies. Schumpeter gave an alternative explanation, emphasizing the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. Knight, who stressed neither rationality nor innovation but uncertainty and perceptiveness as the sole source of progress and profits, followed up German language writing on this subject. Only the investor who can detect hitherto hidden qualities in people can gain. The paper demonstrates how these three authors influenced each other. The debate between these three authors has raised many issues of governance and organization that feature contemporary thinking.

Key words:Entrepreneurship – History of economic thought – Organizational behavior – Bureaucracy – Uncertainty 
JEL Classification:B25, D23 , D73, D81, K11 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria T. Brouwer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Amsterdam, Department of Economics and Econometrics, Roetersstraat 11, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands (e-mail: NL

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