4. The birth of the entrepreneur One of the remarkable things missing in both functionalist and interpretive accounts is the political and economic consequences of entrepreneurship. Although interpretive research has tried to open up the concept, what tends to disappear is the notion that the entrepreneur is an economic category. The danger with expanding the entrepreneur into all areas of social life (see for example Steyaert and Hjorth, 2006) has been to lose sight of the political and economic nature of entrepreneurship. As Murtola (2008) notes, these ‘dirty’ aspects of entrepreneurship are effectively denied, and in doing so, entrepreneurship, as she puts it, is ‘redeemed’. In this chapter, far from redeeming entrepreneurship or allowing it to escape its economic consequences, we propose to engage with the task of what might be called historical political economy. Instead of seeing enterprise as a magic cure to the problems of late modernity, critics see talk of entrepreneurship as politically charged. A central lesson from the critique of entrepreneurship is that the consistent attribution of positive value to entrepreneurship simultaneously marginalises other economic actors. When positive value is bestowed upon the notion of the entrepreneur, it becomes the locus of virtues as wide-ranging as efficiency, innovation, self-fulfilment and response to consumer demand, and, as it was put long ago ‘intelligence, prudence, probity and regularity’ (Say, 1821: 330). These positive valuations stand in notable contrast to the apparent ills of bureaucracy such as inefficiency, routinisation, responsiveness to rules, self-depreciation and a workplace thoroughly disenchanted by...
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