Edited by Elizabeth Chell and Mine Karataş-Özkan
Chapter 13: Social embeddedness in entrepreneurship research: the importance of context and community
Since the mid 1980s there has been a noticeable increase in the number of studies focusing on the social structures, processes and mechanisms through which economic actions take place and entrepreneurial outcomes are achieved (Granovetter, 1985; Uzzi, 1997; Aldrich and Fiol, 1994). Within this growing body of research, the term social embeddedness has emerged and come to prominence (Granovetter, 1985), first as a metaphor relating to the influence of social and cultural factors on economic exchange, and more recently as an analytical concept in research interested in the role and importance of social networks for entrepreneurial action (Uzzi, 1997; Jack and Anderson, 2002). This growing recognition of entrepreneurs (both individually and collectively) as socialised actors is seen by many as a corrective adjustment based on mounting dissatisfaction with the simplicity and parsimony of neo-classical economic models (Hoang and Antoncic, 2003). As a metaphor, theoretical lens and methodological tool, embeddedness has been described as an opportunity to form a deeper understanding of how membership of social groups at times facilitates, and at others constrains action (Portes and Sensenbrenner, 1993). Uzzi (1997: 22) has referred to embeddedness as a theoretical puzzle, that once understood will form the basis for making contextually informed sense of a whole range of complex social and economic situations. Yet despite this optimism and progress made, Block (2001) feels that while embeddedness represents a famous contribution to social thought, the concept remains a source of enormous confusion.
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