Chapter 2: Setting the Discursive Context: Enterprise Culture Debates in the UK
INTRODUCTION TO THE CHAPTER Political discourse in many advanced liberal economies has been dominated by references to ‘enterprise’ for the best part of a quarter of a century (du Gay, 2004, p. 38). The enterprise culture is founded on the premise that entrepreneurship has a transformative function, which drives the economy (Jack and Anderson, 1999). This belief that new enterprises fuel employment and wealth creation, combined with a shift from the orthodoxy of Keynesian economics to a market-driven ideology, has cemented entrepreneurship into political discourse (Ogbor, 2000; Swedberg, 2000; Perren and Jennings, 2005). The chapter seeks to examine the political discourse of enterprise culture that has prevailed in the UK since the early 1980s, by analysing the underpinning philosophies and assumptions from a historical perspective. To this end, the chapter is organised as follows: the first section discusses the political usage of the term ‘enterprise culture’, by showing how successive politicians have played on the ambiguity of interpretation in order to serve several purposes at different times. The second section considers the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in the further development of the enterprise agenda. The part played by university incubators provides a deeper insight into the context for nascent entrepreneurship. The chapter concludes with a summary of the key debates. 2.2 ENTERPRISE CULTURE DEBATES The notion of enterprise culture has been at the forefront of political debate for three decades, with successive UK governments having committed themselves to making the UK a country of enterprise (Gavron, Cowling, Holtham...
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