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Management's knowledge filter: entrepreneurship theory and the historic conceptual evolution of opportunism in management studies

Jeffrey Muldoon (Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)
Joshua S. Bendickson (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA)
Furkan A. Gur (Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA)
Patrick J. Murphy (The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 19 October 2021

Issue publication date: 24 May 2022




This study aims to argue that opportunism is central to management thought and illustrate its evolution into a central element of the entrepreneurship theory. The authors show that many criticisms of opportunism tend to conflate the concept with other theoretic traditions.


The authors trace foundational works by Taylor, Mayo, Fayol, Barnard, Follett and Simon to limit opportunism under the guise of promoting cooperation in organizations.


Opportunism is conceptualized in transaction cost economics as one of the most controversial concepts in management. While modern management is based on handling opportunism, it is bad for practice, as it ignores innovation, and damages trust and goodwill among organizational members. These interventions serve as a knowledge filter, damaging organizational entrepreneurship.


By tracing the roots of opportunism in early management thought, the authors clarify ethical and entrepreneurial issues of mutual obligations in organizations. The authors also place workplace conflict to be a more coherent framework that better reflects the core concept of opportunism.



The authors would like to acknowledge valuable reviewer and participant feedback at the 2020 annual meeting of the Academy of Management where they received the Sage Leadership Award for an earlier version of this research.

Funding: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of interest: The authors(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorships and/or publication of this article.


Muldoon, J., Bendickson, J.S., Gur, F.A. and Murphy, P.J. (2022), "Management's knowledge filter: entrepreneurship theory and the historic conceptual evolution of opportunism in management studies", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 402-420.



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