Frontiers in European Entrepreneurship Research
Edited by David Smallbone, Hans Landström and Dylan Jones-Evans
Chapter 14: Transnationalism, Mixed Embeddedness and Somali Entrepreneurs in Leicester
Trevor Jones, Monder Ram and Nicholas Theodorakopoulos INTRODUCTION In a recent critique of current ethnic minority business (EMB) literature, the present authors draw special attention to what they see as an unfortunate tendency towards ahistoricism, in which ethnic entrepreneurs are presented as essentially an unprecedented novelty, subject to few if any of the historical forces and economic laws governing the generality of small business operators (Jones and Ram, 2007). To judge from one tenaciously persistent strand of UK literature running from Werbner (1980) through to Basu and Altinay (2002), we might be forgiven for concluding that EMB use of informal social capital networks in business is a new innovative practice, the product of unique cultural attributes. Naturally such context-free interpretations cannot go unchallenged, with Light (2007) reminding us of Granovetter’s (1985) definition of social embeddedness as the universal basis of all entrepreneurial activity for all groups at all times. Far from exceptional – or, come to that, exceptionally successful – postwar immigrant businesses in Europe are better seen as the latest recruits to a time-honoured occupation, whose rules of engagement are harsh and ruthlessly enforced by the capitalist market (Bechofer and Elliott, 1978; Rainnie 1989). In this precarious struggle for survival, social capital has always been an indispensable prop. For EMBs faced with additional costs imposed by racist barriers (Ram and Jones, 2008), the availability of cheap capital and labour from family and community takes on extra urgency. More recently these principles have been further elucidated by Kloosterman et al.’s (1999) theory...
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