Entrepreneur and Religion: An Exploratory Study of Tunisian Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur and Religion: An Exploratory Study of Tunisian Entrepreneurs

Sinda Ben Sedrine Doghri (Institut Supérieur de Gestion de Tunis, Tunisia) and Amel Bouderbala (Manouba University, Tunisia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1802-1.ch006


Research on the psychological traits of the entrepreneur did not establish an absolute psychological profile of the entrepreneur or predict entrepreneurial behaviors because this approach neglects the influence of the environment on the entrepreneur. It is from this observation that the authors have outlined their research question. Their main objective is to study the behavior of the entrepreneur in interaction with his local context. Therefore, this research is rooted in the context of Tunisia, a Muslim Arab country with its cultural peculiarities. The research question is: How does religion interact with entrepreneurial behavior? This interpretativists research, which gives context to its whole dimension, mobilizes the approach of traits in a comprehensive and exploratory aim through a qualitative methodology. The object studied is the career path of four Tunisian entrepreneurs through the technique of life stories.
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The term “entrepreneur” is often used to represent very different realities. In some cultures, the entrepreneur is as a “hero” of modern times. In others, he is linked to the capitalist exploiting the toiling masses (Janssen et al., 2016). To define the entrepreneur, the literature distinguishes two main approaches: the functional approach and the indicative approach (Casson, 1982). The first, defines the entrepreneur through his function (what he does?). The second apprehends it through his characteristics (what he is?). This distinction also corresponds to the major approaches that have focused on the entrepreneur: the economy for the functional approach, the behavioral theory for the indicative approach. The work of the behaviorists was succefful during the years 1960-1980. The underlying goal of this work was to differentiate entrepreneurs from other individuals, particularly through the identification of their psychological characteristics or “traits” in order to predict entrepreneurial behavior (Janssen et al., 2016).

However, this feature-based research did not succeed to establish an absolute psychological profile of the entrepreneur (Filion, 1997), nor to predict entrepreneurial behavior. This failure can be partially attributed to the fact that the traits approach had neglected the influence of the environment on the entrepreneur and the emergence of entrepreneurial behaviors. Today, entrepreneurial qualities are no longer seen as exclusively innate; they can also be acquired (Janssen et al., 2016).

Departing from this observation the authors of this chapter have outlined their research question. Their main objective is to study the entrepreneur’s behaviour in interaction with his local context.

Indeed, this research is rooted in the context of Tunisia, a Muslim Arab country with its cultural peculiarities. Contextualization is considered as a circular and self-contained phenomenon. It is resulting from the perception of meanings that the entrepreneur attributes to what he is and on what believes. It is the purpose of this chapter to understand how religion interacts with entrepreneurial behavior.

Indeed, the motivations of the entrepreneur can be grouped under two generic categories: “pull” motivations, which are intrinsic factors that the entrepreneur controls, and “push” motivations, which are extrinsic factors on which the leader has little control (Janssen et al., 2016). Religion would be a motivation for the entrepreneur. However, would it act in “push” or “pull” motivations?

In order to better understand the factors that explain the entrepreneurial opportunity, Tremblay and Carrier (2006) point out three perspectives. First, the objectivist perspective (Kirzner 1985, Shane and Venkataraman 2000) which considers the information available and the vigilance of the entrepreneur as factors influencing the process of identifying or discovering opportunities. The second, which is a more subjective perspective (Krueger, 2000; Gartner and al., 2003), points to an essentially cognitive process of recognition or perception of opportunities that depends on the personality and ways of thinking of the future entrepreneur. Finally, the third perspective is constructivist and explains the creation and development of opportunities through learning processes that could be done through social and relational networks.

The authors of this chapter consider the factors that would explain the entrepreneurial opportunity in particular and the behavior of the entrepreneur in general refers to the subjective approach through a cognitive process. This process depends on the personality traits of the entrepreneur and specifically his religious beliefs. This is the starting proposition of this chapter which aims to understand how religion interferes in this entrepreneurial cognitive process.

Indeed, entrepreneurship literature has ignored, until recently, spirituality and religion in relation to the motivations and behaviors of entrepreneurs (Kauanui et al., 2008). The theme of the influence of spirituality and religion is attracting more and more attention from researchers in the field of entrepreneurship (Dana, 2010, Balog et al., 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Nahdha: Political Tunisian party officially created on June 6, 1981 in the illegality. It was for a long time prohibited and legalized on March 1st, 2011 by the government of national unity established after the revolution. He won 89 seats in the Constituent Assembly of 2011, making it the country's first political force in 2011.

Mohamad: Muslims consider him the last of the prophets of monotheism.

Surat: Is a unit of the Quran formed of a set of verses.

Subjective Norms: Assessment that the family circle is based on the behavior of the entrepreneur.

Sunnite: Related to the word sunna, which means “tradition,” “path,” or “law.” In the Qur'an, the word Sunna is used to refer to God's “immutable law.”

Sfax: It is a port city in the east of Tunisia about 270 kilometers from Tunis. It is rich in its industries and its port; the city plays a leading economic role with the export of olive oil and fresh or frozen fish.

Haram: Illicit actions in Islam.

Halel: Lawful actions in Islam.

Quran: Holy Book of Muslims.

Hadith: Teachings and words of the prophet Mohamad to explain the conditions around the application of social rules.

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