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Chris Mason and Michael Moran

This chapter critically explores the deployment of social enterprise in UK and Australian social enterprise policy-making by the leaders of the two countries’ Conservative parties. To do so, we explore the place of social enterprise in the Big Society: the policy philosophy that initially occupied the policy agenda of David Cameron in the UK and briefly of Tony Abbott in Australia. We apply Wingo’s framework of ‘veil politics’ to present the social enterprise myth as aesthetic adornment, tempting wider engagement and as idealization. Having unpacked how these leaders deployed social enterprise, we used Derrida’s concept of iterability to contribute a new explanation of the different trajectories of social enterprise myths in the two countries, as shown through the failed transition of the Big Society project from the UK to Australia.

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Karin Berglund

Social entrepreneurs respond emotionally to people who are suffering, and wish to alleviate their suffering through their entrepreneurial endeavours. In this comment Berglund has paid attention to how compassion is not only ornamental to stories of social entrepreneurship, but also presented as the very incentive for action for social change, a way to recruit people to engage in social entrepreneurship and something that is problematized as ‘lacking’ when processes of social change falter. In addition, compassion insinuates itself in mundane interactions where it is linked to dilemmas and troublesome situations. Thus, compassion has an effect on people, and is also an effective means for social entrepreneurship discourses to prosper and multiply. One side of this tale describes how social entrepreneurship multiplies through its efforts to alleviate suffering for the other. The other tale shows how we are governed through compassion via the expansion of social entrepreneurship discourses, which is today requested by neoliberal government.

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Lew Perren

Earlier chapters in this volume have successfully argued that social entrepreneurship is a dominating ideological myth that preserves the status quo by hiding awkward realities about society. This chapter builds on these themes and calls upon the semiological insights of Barthes (1972) to show that social entrepreneurship is a political myth that subtly frames capitalist thinking through a mind controlling form of Orwellian ‘doublethink’ (Orwell, 1949). Evading such an intoxicating myth is problematic; fortunately following reframing guidance from Lakoff (2004) a means of ideological escape is recommended.

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Denise M. Horn

In this chapter Denise Horn argues that social entrepreneurship may lead to increased political empowerment only if human capabilities are fostered and states are willing to support these efforts. Social entrepreneurship should be considered as an ethical and normative pursuit, one in which governments have a stake. In that moral space opened up by social entrepreneurs, individuals may be empowered as citizens – the kinds of citizens that strengthen democracies by deliberating their needs, demanding their rights, and participating to their fullest. Horn argues further that the consumer-citizen who merely receives the conventional neoliberal wisdom is not empowered to disagree with neoliberal orthodoxy but rather only to maintain it. Too often, however, scholars and practitioners tend to take for granted that social entrepreneurship will naturally lead to empowerment. Thus an intervention is also necessary: we must reinterpret the logic of ‘empowerment’ that underlies most development schemes and its relationship to democratization.

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Angela M. Eikenberry

This chapter considers the question: can social enterprise bring about democracy, especially within the context of a governance environment? Governance is part of a neoliberal agenda to advocate for lower taxes, fewer social welfare subsidies, and more private, voluntary and market-based approaches to addressing social problems. Democracy is referred to here not only as participatory and deliberative, but also concerned with democratic or substantive outcomes. The chapter presents trends toward governance and the growth of social enterprise; critiques of this growth, especially in relation to its implications for participatory democracy; and arguments for democratizing social enterprise in response to these critiques. These arguments and the democratic potential of social enterprise are assessed in relation to democratic outcomes. The conclusion is that social enterprise may have the potential to enhance participatory or deliberative democracy, but it is limited in contributing to democratic outcomes in a governance environment.

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Social Entrepreneurship

An Affirmative Critique

Edited by Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert

Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert provide a timely critique on the idea of social entrepreneurship and its reputation as a means for positive social change. The book uses different traditions and modes of critique to interrogate, disrupt and reimagine the concept of social entrepreneurship.
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Pam Seanor

The impetus to write the chapter came from a story on trust told at an academic conference, referring to a ‘dance’ between social enterprises and the public sector in England. The story seemed to convey a modern parable suggesting that social enterprises were dancing together since sharing similar values, while not dancing with those in the public sector due to a lack of trust. This story sat uncomfortably with me as author, feeling it was at odds with experiences from conducting research in the north of England with practitioners from social enterprises during my doctoral research. This chapter thus draws on these conversations with practitioners to discuss their collective sense-making and to offer their little narratives as a way of problematizing grand narratives of trust and distrust that often dominate the literature on social enterprises. In this way, the chapter elaborates how practitioners’ narratives transgress and subvert dominant narratives of trust and distrust by questioning dominant assumptions.

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Janelle A. Kerlin and Tom H. Pollak

This chapter examines whether there has been an increase in non-profit commercial revenue and if so whether declines in government grants and private contributions were behind the rise. A number of non-profit scholars have held that non-profit commercial activity increased significantly during the 1980s and 1990s. Following on resource dependency theory, they suggest that non-profits use commercial income as a replacement for lost government grants and private revenue. However, authors for and against this thesis have provided little empirical evidence to test these claims. This study uses the Internal Revenue Services’ Statistics of Income database to track sources of revenue for charitable non-profit organizations from 1982 to 2002. Trend and panel analysis show that although there was a large increase in commercial revenue, there is little evidence the increase was associated with declines in government grants and private contributions. Findings point to institutional theory and have important implications for policymakers and non-profit practitioners.

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Jenny Cameron

This commentary reflects on the two chapters in the section on ‘social entrepreneurship, relationality and the possible’. The chapters push at our understandings of social entrepreneurship. They start by taking a relational view of the world, exploring the importance of the relationships between people, and between people and ‘things’. In so doing they provide insights into social entrepreneurship as a social change practice not so much for finding accommodations in what is already present but for shifting the frame of what is thinkable and doable. They also document strategies for social change while also recognizing that social change is an unpredictable and uneven process that involves responding to the unexpected. Finally, the chapters invite reflection on the contribution of social research to the social change process by demonstrating how social research can be oriented towards ushering in the new, an orientation that is captured in the notion of research as a performative practice. This commentary takes up these themes of relationality, social change and research orientation.

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Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert

In this chapter we make two contributions. The first consists of distinguishing three understandings of myth – myth as false explanation, myth as ideology, and myth as dialectic potential – which open up different, and partly complementary, possibilities for demystifying social entrepreneurship. To substantiate these theoretical distinctions, we review how these practices of demystification have been applied in the (critical) literature on social entrepreneurship. Our second objective is to stimulate the conceptual expansion of the third and least developed strategy of demystification, which we call ‘demystification from below’. To do so, we offer an empirical illustration to expound its workings. To conclude, we argue that the imperative of constant re-invention is due to the ever-present possibility that demystification becomes neutralized to the point where it becomes a mere cliché of its initial promise.