Unmasking the Entrepreneur

Unmasking the Entrepreneur

Campbell Jones and André Spicer

This book asks what lies behind the friendly face of the entrepreneur. It challenges the widespread idea that entrepreneurship is a necessary and good thing, subjecting ‘the entrepreneur’ to critical analysis. Unmasking the Entrepreneur demonstrates the socially embedded nature of entrepreneurship and considers the history, ethics and politics of entrepreneurship. Drawing on a range of ideas from critical social theory and philosophy, it investigates entrepreneurship in unusual places such as among illegal immigrants and revolutionary France. Ultimately, this book offers a unique and powerful critique of the very idea of the entrepreneur.

Chapter 1: ‘I Am An Entrepreneur’

Campbell Jones and André Spicer

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, organisation studies


In a photograph taken on the street of a large US city, we find an African American man sitting on the sidewalk, looking at pedestrians passing by. He huddles under a blanket of some kind. Any passer-by instantly recognises this essential character in the drama of American city life. He is the homeless person, the bum, the rough sleeper, the vagrant, the pan-handler, the vagabond. And naturally the passer-by does not want to look too closely. They are scared that this street dweller might catch their eye and ask whether they might spare a brother a dime. But if the fleet-footed city stroller happened to stop and look, just for one second, they might notice something. The sign he holds does not proclaim the usual narratives which identify this man as a victim (‘have AIDS’, ‘have no money’, ‘lost job’), or as a street-side Dionysian (‘want money for beer’). The sign explicitly states ‘I am no beggar’. The sign tells us that he is an ‘entrepreneur’ who offers you a service of cleaning your car windows. There are many more attractive images of the entrepreneur, of course. But as we prepared this book we found all these appealing and heroic allusions somewhat unsatisfying. They did not capture the darker side of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship (Kets de Vries, 1985). They did not seem to register that the reality of entrepreneurship is not massive success but one of struggle, stress, debt and failure. This pushed us to discard the celebratory ways...

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