From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs: The (French) Evolution of EntrepreneurshipTHE FIGURE OF THE ENTREPRENEUR FROM THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT IN A BOOK BY GIUSEPPE BERTA
“The concept of entrepreneurship is overly broad, and therefore ambiguous. History can help us to better understand its characteristics and functions”. Giuseppe Berta, Associate professor of Contemporary History, traces the evolution of the entrepreneur in L’enigma dell’imprenditore (e il destino dell’impresa), a book published by Il Mulino in 2018.
“Entrepreneurship is a function of culture”, he says. “During the Industrial Revolution, which took place in England in the second half of the 18th century, the category of entrepreneur did not even exist. Entrepreneur is a loan word borrowed from French. According to classical economics, from Adam Smith onwards, there was no entrepreneur. There was the person who employed people and who was therefore defined by his role: the employer”. The entrepreneur, as we know him today, was born in continental Europe. He is the one who undertakes to organize and assume risks. He uses his creative intelligence to boost a firm.
This idea, less objective and more subjective, has proven successful. In The Theory of Economic Development, Joseph Schumpeter turned the creative function of the entrepreneur into the engine of economic growth. The entrepreneur anticipates times to come and recognizes unexpressed needs.
“In the 20th century, the man who best embodied these virtues was Henry Ford. Today, this man is Steve Jobs. He was not an inventor, he was the Schumpeterian entrepreneur who envisioned the future. He was the turning point between the culture of enterprise and innovation in the 20th and in the 21st century. He had an unmistakable aesthetic and established that what is beautiful is good and vice versa. Today, we swing between the idea of great entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos and the daily dimension of entrepreneurship”. Entrepreneur is still an ambiguous word: only history can give it a meaning.
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