The Hidden Enterprise Culture
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The Hidden Enterprise Culture

Entrepreneurship in the Underground Economy

Colin C. Williams

Portraying how entrepreneurs often start out conducting some or all of their trade on an ‘off-the-books’ basis and how many continue to do so once they become established, this book provides the first detailed account of the vast and ubiquitous hidden enterprise culture existing in the interstices of western economies. Until now, the role of the underground economy in enterprise creation, entrepreneurship and small business development has been largely ignored despite its widespread prevalence and importance.
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Chapter 3: Studies of the Underground Economy: The Omission of Entrepreneurship

Colin C. Williams


INTRODUCTION This chapter charts both the changes and continuities in thought on underground work in western economies over the past three decades. It displays how despite some changes at the margins, the vast majority of this literature has continued to propagate a vision of underground work that focuses largely upon its negative characteristics and as such, represented it as a form of work that needs to be eradicated using deterrence measures. Recently, however, it will be revealed that a body of thought has begun to emerge that depicts some more positive attributes of this sphere. This emerging representation of the underground economy as a source of enterprise and entrepreneurship and therefore an asset to be harnessed, moreover, is revealed to be very different to earlier neo-liberal thought, encapsulated in the writing of Hernando De Soto (1989). Rather than using the identification of entrepreneurship in the underground economy as a justification for deregulating the formal economy to free it from state intervention, this emerging perspective will be shown to be exploring how this hidden enterprise culture can be transferred into the legitimate realm. In order to frame the continuities and changes in how the underground economy has been represented over the past three decades, this chapter will draw upon Derrida’s (1967) notion that western thought is characterized by a hierarchical binary mode of thinking that to repeat, first, conceptualizes objects/identities as stable, bounded and constituted via negation and second, reads the resultant binary structures in a hierarchical manner in...

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