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Social entrepreneurship between cross-currents : towards a framework of theoretical restructuring of the field

Nicolopoulou, Katerina (2014) Social entrepreneurship between cross-currents : towards a framework of theoretical restructuring of the field. Journal of Small Business Management, 54 (4). 678–702. ISSN 0047-2778

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Scholars have characterized social entrepreneurship as an “accumulative fragmentalism,” primarily characterized by the use of case studies featuring prominent and innovative profiles of social enterprises and entrepreneurs. However, today, social entrepreneurship is between cross-currents. On the one hand, it seeks, as a subfield, to solidify its theoretical and methodological underpinnings and standpoints. On the other hand, it is consistently exposed to field expansion, given that a number of its underlying frameworks, commonly shared with other fields (such as sustainability and corporate social responsibility [CSR]), are opening up to wider vistas of conceptualization and theorization. This is often through the influence of practice as well as theory. The contribution of the paper is threefold. First, it enhances our understanding of social entrepreneurship field development by identifying cross-currents and by highlighting new angles for paradigmatic and theoretical positioning. Second, it implements a framework that scholars previously employed within the original field of entrepreneurship (Bourdieu's theory of capitals and their transformations); in doing so, it also proceeds to propose an enrichment to the framework by including additional capitals that are specifically relevant for the field of social entrepreneurship and that are influenced by common agendas, as those exist in the fields of sustainability and CSR. Third, it offers insights for theory, as well as practice, which relate to understandings from the first two contributions.