Narrative, Gender and Learning in Family Business
Chapter 2: Foundations for understanding families in business
Family business is a significant phenomenon that deserves attention and demands profound understanding. This chapter first takes a look back at some of the approaches that economists, business historians and manage- ment researchers have taken to theorizing family business. In so doing it uncovers some assumptions that require challenge if we are to understand families in business, not least the assumption that we all have a shared understanding of what we mean by the term ‘family’. This historical perspective reflects one of the core themes of this book, that the past is interesting of itself, but it also helps us to understand possible futures. We would expect our preoccupations as researchers to be influenced by the time and place we occupy and the evolving paradigms in which we operate. To reflect on the convergent, and sometimes divergent, pathways of family business research offers fruitful foundations for understanding directions for the future. There has been a tradition of tracing the history of business disciplines, although concerns have been voiced that this practice is in decline (Van Fleet and Wren, 2005). There is evidence of recent interest in the historical foundations of research in the overlapping fields of management (Witzel, 2009) and entrepreneurship (Landström and Lohrke, 2010). As for family business research, ‘a culture of regular stock taking and intermittent synthesis of the literature prevails in this field of study’ (Zahra and Sharma, 2004, p. 332). There have been regular reviews of the literature over the last 30 years which is helpful
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