Frontiers in European Entrepreneurship Research
Edited by Robert Blackburn, Ulla Hytti and Friederike Welter
Chapter 2: Entrepreneurial activity under ‘transition’
With this chapter, I present a short overview of the theoretical explanation for the development of bottom-up entrepreneurship in those economies and societies that are most often characterized as ‘transitional’. This involves sharing and drawing upon my own experience of more than 20 years of sociological research into entrepreneurial activities, as well as the development of small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Overall, after more than two decades of systemic transition, the state and performance of entrepreneurial activity in these countries seems to be less encouraging than expected in the early 1990s. When the transition process started, most experts were rather enthusiastic about the prospects of private entrepreneurship, market economies and democracy in CEE and the CIS. It appeared evident that de novo ‘Schumpeterian’ entrepreneurship would be booming, which was seen as inevitable condition for the modernization of economies and societies. The privatization of state enterprises and organizations was judged to be a precondition for private sector development, and the transfer of Western experiences in SME policy and support was assumed to support the rapid development of de novo start-ups and small businesses. I shared these hopes at the beginning of the 1990s, too. However, by the mid-1990s it became clear that, first, the intensity of entrepreneurship development as a whole was much lower than expected in most of these countries.
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