An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

Voices, Preconditions, Contexts

Edited by Rafeal Ziegler

This timely book sets social entrepreneurship in a historical context, from its philanthropic beginnings in the Victorian era to the present day, against the backdrop of contemporary global capitalism.

Chapter 8: Forgotten Antecedents: Entrepreneurship, Ideology and History

Rob Boddice

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, development studies, development studies, social entrepreneurship, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, social policy in emerging countries


Rob Boddice ‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin’, thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!’ (Carroll, 1865 [2007]: 94) 8.1 INTRODUCTION: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP – A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT Judging by the historical perspective of contemporary scholars in the field, social entrepreneurship is an entirely new and unprecedented activity. Researchers struggle to define the concept and its associated activities, often trying to determine the novel, contemporary circumstances that gave rise to this unfamiliar phenomenon; sponsors of social entrepreneurs, meanwhile, herald the heretofore unseen sweeping of the field by heroic personalities who succeed as entrepreneurs and as social developers/reformers where governments and charities have previously failed.1 Not only that, but social entrepreneurs are credited with a unique vision, seeing the roots of problems beyond their symptoms, and forming ingenious strategies to overcome difficulties and implement change that is valuable, sustainable and profitable. These people are, as Ashoka points out, of exceptional ethical fibre. Social entrepreneurs, it would seem, are at the forefront of human evolution, and their existence was scarcely possible until now.2 It will be my contention that such a view really just presents the symptoms without the causes. The apparent newness of social-entrepreneurial activity belies the traditions upon which it rests, and panegyrics in its favour (often put forward by sponsoring groups) tend to draw a veil over the substance and variety of motives and ideologies carried by social entrepreneurs...

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