Morphogenetic model to explain entrepreneurial behaviour: The case of Germany

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Proceedings of the 10th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE 2015)


Academic Conferences and Publishing International


School of Business and Law / Centre for Innovative Practice




Jackson, P., Dobson, P., & Richter, N. (2015). Morphogenetic model to explain entrepreneurial behaviour: The case of Germany. In Proceedings of The 10th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship ECIE 2015: The University of Genoa, Italy 17-18 September 2015 (pp. 312-319). Reading, United Kingdom: Academic Conferences and Publishing International. Available here


Entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic activity, but the factors which influence the emergence of entrepreneurs at the national level are not well understood. Subsequently, policy initiatives to encourage entrepreneurial behaviour are often developed with limited knowledge of the relevant constraints and causal factors. In order to identify such factors we seek first to describe and understand the problem of low entrepreneurial behaviour, and then to identify its possible causes. We adopt a causal realist approach, generally associated with critical realism (Bhaskar, 1978; Lawson, 1997), to guide our investigation. With this approach to analysis, things like human practices, structural conditions and policy interventions, are seen as causal factors that combine to form real, often interacting, causal mechanisms. We take as our case study the surprisingly low levels of entrepreneurial behaviour in Germany, a country that otherwise performs very well in international innovation comparisons (INSEAD, 2014; OECD, 2013).Using critical realism, and its focus on ontology, we apply the morphogenetic framework of Margaret Archer (1995) to the anomaly of German entrepreneurship. In this way we hope to provide a possible basis for policy development. We examine cultural, structural and personal ontologies, their reciprocal interactions and the role of agential reflexivity. Whilst our findings about entrepreneurship in Germany can only be provisional, we argue that a social realist stance combined with the morphogenetic model can provide a practical grounding for research and analysis of entrepreneurship located within a national context. We consider how particular situational logics provide high-level strategic guidance for entrepreneurial action. These so-called situational logics, emanating from emergent cultural and socio-cultural factors, provide a basis for proposing different national and institutional mechanisms that impact entrepreneurial strategic choices. Incorporating the way that “people” selectively and non-deterministically respond to these social “parts” provides important insights into entrepreneurial behaviour.