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Registering Ideology in the Creation of Social Entrepreneurs: Intermediary Organizations, ‘Ideal Subject’ and the Promise of Enjoyment

Abstract

Research on social entrepreneurship has taken an increasing interest in issues pertaining to ideology. In contrast to existing research which tends to couch ‘ideology’ in pejorative terms (i.e., something which needs to be overcome), this paper conceives ideology as a key mechanism for rendering social entrepreneurship an object with which people can identify. Specifically, drawing on qualitative research of arguably one of the most prolific social entrepreneurship intermediaries, the global Impact Hub network, we investigate how social entrepreneurship is narrated as an ‘ideal subject,’ which signals toward others what it takes to lead a meaningful (working) life. Taking its theoretical cues from the theory of justification advanced by Boltanski, Chiapello and Thévenaut, and from recent affect-based theorizing on ideology, our findings indicate that becoming a social entrepreneur is considered not so much a matter of struggle, hardship, and perseverance but rather of ‘having fun.’ We caution that the promise of enjoyment which pervades portrayals of the social entrepreneur might cultivate a passive attitude of empty ‘pleasure’ which effectively deprives social entrepreneurship of its more radical possibilities. The paper concludes by discussing the broader implications this hedonistic rendition of social entrepreneurship has and suggests a re-politicization of social entrepreneurship through a confronting with what Slavoj Žižek calls the ‘impossible.’

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Correspondence to Pascal Dey.

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Dey, P., Lehner, O. Registering Ideology in the Creation of Social Entrepreneurs: Intermediary Organizations, ‘Ideal Subject’ and the Promise of Enjoyment. J Bus Ethics 142, 753–767 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3112-z

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Keywords

  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Ideology
  • Ideal subject
  • Affect
  • Enjoyment
  • Hedonism
  • Narratives
  • Intermediary organizations