Unmasking the Entrepreneur
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Unmasking the Entrepreneur

Campbell Jones and André Spicer

This book asks what lies behind the friendly face of the entrepreneur. It challenges the widespread idea that entrepreneurship is a necessary and good thing, subjecting ‘the entrepreneur’ to critical analysis. Unmasking the Entrepreneur demonstrates the socially embedded nature of entrepreneurship and considers the history, ethics and politics of entrepreneurship. Drawing on a range of ideas from critical social theory and philosophy, it investigates entrepreneurship in unusual places such as among illegal immigrants and revolutionary France. Ultimately, this book offers a unique and powerful critique of the very idea of the entrepreneur.
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Chapter 3: The Sublime Object of Entrepreneurship

Campbell Jones and André Spicer


One of the major questions in this book is: when we use the word entrepreneur, what on earth do we mean? This question is typically sidestepped or treated as a technical matter by functionalist approaches. Building on the interpretive tradition, we need to understand what ‘entrepreneurship’ means. But we need to move beyond merely interpreting the entrepreneur, and pose this question in a more critical way. When we do this, we will find that entrepreneurship discourse has been constantly unable to assign a positive identity to the character of the entrepreneur. Shifting away from stable categories, we propose in this chapter a preliminary unmasking, in which the entrepreneur is no longer a stable thing, but a phantasmatic category, a sublime object. In doing so we draw on the work of Jacques Lacan, which we briefly introduced in the previous chapter. We suggest that a broadly Lacanian conception of the relation between the subject and language might offer a way out of some of the impasses which currently puzzle those concerned with understanding the enterprising subject. We work through these general claims by focusing on the specific case of the operation of discourses of enterprise, their effects in the constitution of enterprising subjects, and problems around the category of ‘the entrepreneur’. We begin with a discussion of one exemplary critical study of enterprise – Paul du Gay’s examination of enterprise culture. Du Gay’s work and subsequent responses to it can be read as a significant moment in debates around how enterprise discourse...

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