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 5: Entrepreneurial Excess

Campbell Jones and André Spicer

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, organisation studies


Questions of the differential value of entrepreneurship lead us to issues of inclusion and exclusion: Who gets to be an entrepreneur and who doesn’t. We will deal with these questions directly in Chapters 6 and 7. But first of all, in this chapter we will look at the flipside of claims about the production of value we have just covered. In this chapter we will discuss issues of excess, consumption and wastage. As we will argue, these are an important part of a non-restrictive or ‘general’ conception of entrepreneurship. So as we turn to questions of irrational exuberance we will unmask the excessively rationalistic assumptions about entrepreneurship that are often made by functionalist, interpretive and critical researchers. Critical researchers have often objected to the extension of entrepreneurship into all public institutions and the concomitant rationalisation and depoliticisation of public life (du Gay, 2000b). As economic calculations come to override all others, there is a danger of public debate becoming dominated by calculation of input/output ratios, and thus discussion of substantive ends becomes almost totally excluded. According to critics of enterprise culture, economic life has become increasingly subject to a logic of ‘performativity’. Diverse social actors including bureaucrats, academics, librarians, scientists, broadcasters and politicians increasingly take up the role of ‘entrepreneur’. In doing so, they become actors who assess the world through a series of economic judgements. This logic appears so insidious that it spreads from its home in the small enterprise, through the modern corporation, into public and non-profit institutions...

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