Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise
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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.
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Chapter 9: Cooperative entrepreneurship

Stefano Zamagni


All economists, from the period of civil humanism in the 15th century up until Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall and Joseph Schumpeter have been unanimous on the point that the entrepreneurial function is essential for the existence of the market economy. (A command economy can manage without entrepreneurs, since astute politicians and industrious functionaries are enough.) Who is this entrepreneur, a term used for the first time in 1730 by the Irish economist Richard Cantillon? There are three fundamental characteristics that distinguish this figure from others: i) propensity to risk; ii) capacity to innovate; iii) ars combinatoria (art of combining elements together). Let’s focus on the last one. Like the conductor of an orchestra, the entrepreneur needs to know the capacities, strengths, weaknesses and, above all, the motivational structure of his/her collaborators so as to organise the productive process so that it integrates individual human actions into a harmonious and effective whole. When the entrepreneur is not up to this task, the enterprise becomes a place of more or less intense conflict, which reduces results to suboptimal levels and can even lead to failure. It is important to remember that this is an art, not a technique that can be learnt from an instruction manual.

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