Over the last thirty years or so, an enterprising discourse has taken a firm hold over western society, and its corporate landscape (see e.g., du Gay, 2004). Entailing a shift away from bureaucratic organizing ideals towards enterprising and entrepreneurship as means for reform, the manager-gone-entrepreneur has thereby entered center stage, and often been hailed a universal remedy to stagnating business operations. Constantly on the look-out for opportunities, willing and autonomous enough to venture into unexploited, highly uncertain territory, the competence and risk-willing mindset of the manager-entrepreneur has been posited as an asset capable of vitalizing private as well as public organizations, quite regardless of either size or scope of the affairs.
Having entered a hegemonic position in contemporary society such an enterprising discourse has of course not been left unproblematized. The critical voices that have addressed it appear to have commented mostly, however, on either macro-level issues concerned with its effects and consequences for public management practice. Or on micro-level issues concerned with peoples’ experiences of being subjected to this kind of discourse—and to the exploitative dynamics supposedly inherent to it. In contrast to these two major stands of debate, we concentrate in this paper on how such an enterprising discourse, during the 1980’s, came to manifest itself in the upper management tier of privately held Swedish shipping company Salén Invest. Providing a retroactive interpretation of how the organization was shattered by all too entrepreneurial, risk-willing managers, and of how various ventures rose from the ashes through the relentless efforts the same managers-entrepreneurs, the paper takes to discussing the ambiguity involved in the entrepreneurial ethos of ‘keep going’—how the enterprising spirit involved in relentless pursuits for autonomy, leaves wretched villains in its wake.