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Cruel optimism: the stories of entrepreneurial attachments

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).


Drawing on Berlant’s concept of cruel optimism, the chapter explores entrepreneurial attachment to success ethics (a system of legitimation that prioritizes norms and actions consistent with institutionalized notions of success) generated by a cluster of promises afforded by the enterprise culture. Based on 12 life stories of entrepreneurs who had first-hand experience of bankruptcy, this chapter aims at gaining a more nuanced understanding of why the uniformity and orthodoxy of identities around an entrepreneurial ideal persist and grow in the context of entrepreneurial failure. The chapter is motivated by an interest in the human consequences of bankruptcies and focuses on exploring how the appropriation and internalization of social norms propounded by the enterprise culture might fix life narratives. To understand participants’ attachment to extremely stressful and, often traumatic, entrepreneurial lives and their propensity to promulgate and reproduce the entrepreneurial ideal not only do we need to think about social norms related to the entrepreneurial ideal as aspirational but also as redeeming and reassuring about the present and future experience of social belonging that can be lived in affective transactions that take place alongside the more instrumental ones.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Slutskaya N, Mallett O, Borgerson JL

Editor(s): Fayolle A; Karatas-Ozkan M; Nicolopoulou K

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Philosophical Reflexivity and Entrepreneurship Research

Year: 2018

Pages: 112-125

Print publication date: 18/05/2018

Online publication date: 15/05/2018

Acceptance date: 02/01/2018

Series Title: Routledge Rethinking Entrepreneurship Research

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781138650299