Narratives of Enterprise
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Narratives of Enterprise

Crafting Entrepreneurial Self-Identity in a Small Firm

Simon Down

Simon Down’s timely ethnographic study takes a philosophically reflective and empirically detailed look at the way in which enterprising people use narrative resources to construct their identity as entrepreneurs. The book draws on a wide range of intellectual sources, from naturalistic philosophy and social-psychology to sociology and organisational theory.
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Chapter 2: Self-identities of Entrepreneurial Practice

Simon Down


In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait. Jean Paul Sartre Existentialism and Humanism (1973: 42) INTRODUCTION Both esoteric and ubiquitous the notion self-identity1 is fashionably vague and famously imprecise. Sometimes though, as Anselm Strauss pointed out, such ambiguous terms are needed to ‘better look around the corners of […] problem[s]’ (1959: 9). For scholars whose interests lay askance to mainstream sociology the concept is perhaps somewhat daunting. It is nevertheless currently implicated in a panoply of debates in many disciplines, and it would be easy in attempting an explanation to lose sight of the aim of this book: to use self-identity and the associated disciplinary, ontological and epistemological stances it implies to contribute to an emerging vocabulary describing the entrepreneur. An explanation is necessary nonetheless, but the emphasis here is on the social practice involved in producing entrepreneurial self-identity narratives: a particular and descriptive enterprise. To understand that practice something of these stances will have to be explained. This chapter will make an argument about the best way – that is, best for creating patterns of meaning out of this research – to think about self-identity. There is nothing startlingly innovative in the theoretical approach. I draw on and synthesise much that is current in sociology, social-psychology and organisation studies. What is novel is the application to an entrepreneurial context. In making a new synthesis however, there is sense in which the concept of self-identity is also renewed and changed; re-theorised....

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