Pre-paradigmatic Status of Social Entrepreneurship Research: A Systematic Literature Review

Othmar M. Lehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Social entrepreneurship (SE) research has been presented in the literature as a field of action in a pre-paradigmatic state, a field that lacks an established epistemology. Despite that impediment, several qualitative and quantitative studies have already been undertaken on the sole base of some institutions' worldview and without previous solidification of theory. Consequently, critics and social constructivists have found much ambivalence in these and owing to the resulting mess, even question SE's legitimization as a distinctive item of research. Articles on the topic of SE make use of a variety of frameworks, borrowing from neo-institutional or dialectic theory, bringing with them different research methods and views from other disciplines. Instead of proposing another conceptual approach and yet contributing to the ongoing discussion, the authors enact on a deductive journey by examining and clustering underlying paradigmatic assumptions found in a large-scale sample (>300) of current articles. In comparison to results from the management (entrepreneurship) literature, the study finds statistical evidence to the hypotheses that SE differs in researchers' paradigms, that seminal SE research transcends the foci on either detached structures or individuals, and that research in SE is often led by advocacy worldviews of the researchers themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-219
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Entrepreneurship
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Social entrepreneurship
  • methodology
  • paradigm
  • research


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