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Contesting the history and politics of enterprise and entrepreneurship

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Oliver Mallett



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Enterprise and entrepreneurship are frequently constructed within political discourse in terms of economic growth and prosperity. In the UK, for example, the cross-party political consensus on the value of ‘the entrepreneur’ ensures that this hegemony is rarely questioned. Instead, claims about the creation of economic growth and prosperity through entrepreneurship are repeated to the point that alternative ways of thinking about and doing business start-up and growth fall into disuse, limiting the scope for debate and opportunity. There is a danger that ideologically-driven approaches that draw on the neoliberalism of free markets, deregulation and privatisation but also, in turn, individualism and risk, produce accounts of entrepreneurship that are constrained by being ‘caught within a network of social, historical and economic forces’ (Ogbor, 2000, p. 624). These accounts create normative understandings that denigrate and exclude alternatives such as non-profit and more collective endeavours. Despite some valuable interventions that seek to question and critique the assumptions of enterprise and small business discourses (for example, Dannreuther and Perren, 2013; Du Gay, 1996; Jones and Spicer, 2005; Keat and Abercrombie, 1991), this review of three recent books on enterprise and entrepreneurship suggests that a need remains for more critical, socially-oriented approaches.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mallett O, Wapshott R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Work, Employment and Society

Year: 2015

Volume: 29

Issue: 1

Pages: 177-182

Online publication date: 01/02/2015

Acceptance date: 17/09/2014

Date deposited: 21/03/2016

ISSN (print): 0950-0170

ISSN (electronic): 1469-8722

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0950017014559265


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