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 2: For a Critical Theory of Entrepreneurship

Campbell Jones and André Spicer

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, organisation studies

Extract

When the word ‘entrepreneur’ is used, we often think of the typical ‘selfmade man’ who spotted a gap in the market, started a business, and made it into a large going-concern. Today the word seems to be used in an extremely promiscuous way. It is possible to talk about an employee pursuing a new idea as an ‘intrapreneur’ (Kanter, 1990). It makes sense to talk about a woman who owns a cow in an Indian village and sells some of the precious milk to her neighbours as a ‘micro-entrepreneur’ (Westall et al., 2000). A public sector employee who has an eye for gaining funding from the private sector is also an entrepreneur (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992). Those who build new institutions are known as ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ (Dorado, 2005). An individual who changes the direction of political struggles is called a ‘political entrepreneur’ (Schneider and Teske, 1992). The ancient activity of charity is now ‘social entrepreneurship’ (Austin et al., 2006). Professionals such as doctors and nurses have now been recoded as entrepreneurs (Doolin, 2002). This has all led some social critics to argue that we are experiencing a profound and notable generalisation of the category of the entrepreneur, to the point where the figure of the entrepreneur can be used to refer not just to someone undertaking a small business start-up, but to nearly anyone. In this chapter we ask how we can adequately understand this generalisation of the entrepreneur. We argue that functionalist and interpretive approaches to entrepreneurship are largely...

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