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Entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial self: Creating alternatives through entrepreneurship education?
Stockholms universitet.
2018 (English)In: Revitalizing Entrepreneurship Education: Adopting a critical approach in the classroom / [ed] Berglund, Karin, and Karen Verduyn, London: Routledge, 2018Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Entrepreneurship has spread via an abundance of organizations and people that embrace the prosperity its logic currently promises. Apart from the generation of new companies and market places this promise also entails a flexible invention of entrepreneurial subjectivities and self-investment via alternative choices (Bröckling, 2016). We have recently seen a diversification of the contexts in which entrepreneurial subjectivities are invited to undergird entrepreneurship, for example in social entrepreneurship (Dey, 2014) and ecopreneurship. A peculiar pluralism of ‘entrepreneurial selves’ is advancing, which makes it necessary to question how we, as educators in entrepreneurship, are often invited to join in and become abiding facilitators of students’ empowerment and subjectification to entrepreneurship, now in its rejuvenated forms. Our concern is thus in line with others who have turned to Foucault to study the potential effects teaching has on student subjectivities, either positively (Sliwa, Meier Sørensen, & Cairns, 2015) or negatively (Simons & Masschelein, 2008).

 

This chapter presents the development and implementation of a critical entrepreneurship course, “Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurial Self” (EES), designed for Master’s students. The purpose of the course is 1) to deconstruct the basic ontological assumptions of entrepreneurship and explore the extension and reformulation of these assumptions for alternative forms of entrepreneurship, such as social entrepreneurship and ecopreneurship, 2) to analyze the broadening of entrepreneurial subjectivities that unfold hand in hand with these forms of entrepreneurship, and 3) to go beyond these forms of entrepreneurship and subjectivities to touch upon the (im)possibility of collectively constructing new worlds.

 

To address these issues we chose to introduce basic readings and developments of Foucault’s work to the students (e.g. see Rose, 1999; Vrasti, 2012) and thereby enable their deconstruction of the basic assumptions and understanding of the socially and environmentally advanced entrepreneurial logic (Albrecht, 2002; Costea, Amiridis & Crump, 2012; Dempsey & Sanders, 2010; Goss, Jones, Betta & Latham, 2011; Jones & Spicer, 2009; Pastakia, 1998; Peredo & Chrisman 2006; Pongratz & Voss, 2003). The theoretical focus for their reading is guided by a historical understanding of liberal and neoliberal advancements and shifts in the provision of security – continuously aiming for self-regulating citizens (Foucault, 1979/1997; 1997/2004) – visible in how variegated entrepreneurial selves of today are cultivated by the enabling state and its handymen.

 

The perspective provided on the course presents entrepreneurship in relation to Foucault’s notion of ‘productive power’, where the capacities of the individual are empowered on behalf of the whole population, i.e. a ‘biopolitics’ fascinated with life improvements (e.g. see Wallenstein, 2013). The theoretical framework emphasizes how self-regulation and the optimization of life itself, making live and letting die (Dillon & Reid, 2001), followed on from how liberal philosophy prioritized individual freedom in contrast to state rule (Lemke, 2001). We explain to the students how ’freedom’ has been linked to a construction of ‘the social’ and ‘the economic’, to open up possibilities for self-creation and self-regulation. Du Gay, Salaman and Rees (1996, p. 270) have even suggested that ‘the character of the entrepreneur can no longer be represented as just one among a plurality of ethical personalities but must be seen as assuming an ontological priority’. At the same time, we emphasize how the promise of entrepreneurial freedoms and belief in individual capacities seductively speaks to and utilizes your ‘own’ power to “[b]e the architect of your own future” (Pongratz & Voss, 2003, p. 248). By extension, we ask the students to critically reflect on political dimensions, human limits, alternative ideals and the collective efforts that are part of entrepreneurial endeavours (see further Costea et al., 2012) and entrepreneurial education (Berglund, 2013).

 

The course consists of two parallel streams, one analytical and one practical. In the analytical stream students read about entrepreneurship from the above-mentioned liberal and neo-liberal philosophy perspective and apply this to analyze the emergence of new forms of entrepreneurship, what we call ‘alternative entrepreneurships’ (Berglund & Skoglund, 2016). Recognizing new forms of entrepreneurship in late liberal societies brings up questions such as: How has ‘life’ been optimized and vitalized through entrepreneurship? How does expertise call on the human to become entrepreneurial? How are new contexts cultivating entrepreneurial freedoms and self-regulation? And how do these contexts offer the entrepreneurial subject a reinvestment in the self?

 

In the practical stream of the course students engage collectively in a social mission of an imaginary company. Taking inspiration from the Hungarian/US IT company Prezi, this project, called “The entrepreneurial self of a company”, invites students to shape a philanthropic project. Although their student project company is fictional, the students are required to carry out a social mission and solve a social problem of their own choice. In the final presentation, the students can either utilize their theatrical skills, for example by role-playing, or show photographs, film clips, and interviews with organizations and people affected by their social mission.

 

This practical, creative, learning process and cultivation of the students’ imagination is later problematized in a final turn to theory, where the pedagogy applied is interrogated and questioned (Hermann, 2000). The students’ ability to take the last theoretical turn is tested in the take-home exam, designed as a reflective essay, where students are able to apply the concepts related to the entrepreneurial self to critically reflect on the foundations and effects of their social missions.

 

This chapter illustrates the design of the course in detail, with the hope of inspiring others to take two critical turns, one in relation to entrepreneurship as enterprising, and the next in relation to alternative entrepreneurships, i.e social entrepreneurship, ecopreneurship, cultural entrepreneurship, sustainable entrepreneurship, et cetera. To end, we outline how entrepreneurship educators can take these two critical turns. The first step is to problematize how critical approaches to entrepreneurship as enterprising affects students. The second step is to question the teacher’s role as facilitator of less enterprising forms of entrepreneurship and the interpellation of a plurality of entrepreneurial selves.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge, 2018.
Keywords [en]
Entrepreneurship, critical theory, entrepreneurial self
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-340401OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-340401DiVA, id: diva2:1178623
Available from: 2018-01-30 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2018-01-30

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