Entrepreneurship across Generations

Entrepreneurship across Generations

Narrative, Gender and Learning in Family Business

Eleanor Hamilton

Entrepreneurship Across Generations examines dimensions of identity, gender and learning to understand the complex fabric of family business. An interpretation of narratives from two generations in five families constitutes entrepreneurship as an inherently social, rather than individual, phenomenon.

Chapter 7: Solace and suffering: the entanglement of the family and the business

Eleanor Hamilton

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, entrepreneurship, family business, gender and management, organisation studies


Strong family ties lie at the heart of the family business. However, this should not be seen in a sentimental way. The familial discourse of one big happy family is often challenged in the narratives of the families in business. Any positive connotations that might be associated with the concept of community should not be translated to the idea of a com- munity of practice. A community of practice arises out of participation and engagement in practice. This may include some aspects that are harmonious but there will be inevitable tensions and conflicts (Wenger, 1998, p. 77). Loyalty and trust is bound up with duty and obligation. It is also to do with life and death in terms of the survival of the business and sometimes the family. The emotional and physical well-being of family members sometimes appears to take second place to the needs of the business. Alongside the establishing of the business and the rearing of children there is suffering and hardship (Hamilton, 2006a). The demands of the business on the family are sometimes articulated as damaging, and the demands of the family sometimes articulate new directions in the business. The family business can be a site of safety and solace as well as sacrifice and suffering. The narratives articulate a meshing between the spheres of business and family. To view them as separate, as we so often find in the family business literature, fails to understand the entanglement between the two. For many of the second generation their childhood was marked by no separation

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