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Marta B. Calás, Seray Ergene and Linda Smircich

This chapter repositions ‘social entrepreneurship’ in the contemporary context of the Anthropocene, when social, environmental and economic transformation would require fundamental changes in (human/anthropocentric) modes of being in the world. Social entrepreneurship may have something to contribute to these important matters but its current modes of existence are trapped in a space of signification that may no longer be there. What may be that space which is no longer there? What is the ‘there’ we should attend to now? If we do so imagine, what would change in these two signifiers, ‘social’ and ‘entrepreneurship’. Thus, this chapter is an exercise in the ‘what if?’ including ‘the Anthropocene’ as part of our contemporary imaginary. Reflecting on these questions, we engage three current literatures: postcapitalism; new materialisms; and posthumanism, to articulate a continuum of practices and entities we assemble as becoming-socialentrepreneurship. This harbours the necessary processes to address the emergence of a post-anthropocentric world. Our contribution is both theoretical and empirically grounded, offering specific examples with contrasting interpretations, from a negation of social entrepreneurship to a hopeful reading of its becoming-socialentrepreneurship.

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Chris Steyaert and Pascal Dey

In the opening chapter, we explain the importance of engaging critically with social entrepreneurship. We underline the need to make an incisive assessment of social entrepreneurship through the way we (still) publish, critique and imagine books in this field. To all those who want to embark on the path of social entrepreneurship, or are simply curious to hear more about the buzz surrounding social entrepreneurship, we say be aware: we need critique, and we need it now! The affirmative critiques we offer to social entrepreneurship are not based on a priori judgements of social entrepreneurship performed from afar, but are intimately related to specific, phenomenological events and observations. Furthermore, we recapitulate how this book draws upon and intervenes in the critical reception of social entrepreneurship. The chapter ends with an overview of the various chapters and the various critical perspectives and themes they draw on and address.

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Raymond Dart

This chapter discusses the chapters in this section on social entrepreneurship, political representation and myth-busting, which cast doubt on claims that there is an explosion in the number of social enterprises occurring, and that the non-profit sector is systematically replacing lost governmental revenue with new commercial sources. This chapter and the accompanying chapters together look toward the complex political and social contexts behind these widespread and inaccurate claims that encourage us to believe in some kind of Social Enterprise Revolution.

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Trish Ruebottom

This chapter takes a critical look at the economic, cultural and political dimensions of social entrepreneurship, and the ethical risks in each dimension. Processes of democratic deliberation are then proposed, using a discourse ethics approach to self-determination as a way to mitigate the inherent risks. Specifically, the chapter suggests three processes at the heart of Habermas’ discourse ethics: political and communicative education; reflexivity; and facilitation of the ideal speech situation. Both education and reflexivity are necessary pre-processes for creating an ideal speech situation. The ideal speech situation itself then requires understanding-focused dialogue that aims to achieve opinion- and will-formation, where there is engagement with the ‘other’ and room for dissent. Together, political and communicative education, reflexivity, and facilitation of the ideal speech situation will create a more open and expanded viewpoint, where the organization’s values are not assumed or imposed on those they seek to help, with an approach that emphasizes self-determination and participation as moral equals.

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Victor J. Friedman, Israel Sykes and Markus Strauch

This chapter argues for a ‘relational’ framing of social entrepreneurship in contrast to the dominant ‘market’ framing. It builds on the constructs ‘social space’ and ‘field theory’, as introduced by Kurt Lewin and Pierre Bourdieu, to portray social entrepreneurship as a widely distributed, prosaic process of everyday interaction through which citizens co-construct the societies in which they take part. A relational view of social entrepreneurship focuses on the quality of relations that people form with each other and with the physical environment. It views social entrepreneurship as a relational process that can potentially reconfigure social spaces, thereby expanding the realm of the possible. This chapter develops this framework through an analysis of Beit Issie Shapiro, an entrepreneurial organization that in spatial terms, functioned as an ‘enclave’ that challenged, and played a major role in transforming, the existing field of services for children with developmental disabilities and their families in Israel.

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Stefanie Mauksch

This chapter envisions a shift in critical attention to performative effects of social entrepreneurship. Following Judith Butler, it understands language – speaking about social entrepreneurship – and existence – being or becoming a social entrepreneur – as inextricably linked. In a Butlerian sense, social entrepreneurship is a regulatory ideal: a ritualistic, reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names. By way of illustrating how performative practices in the social entrepreneurship field create emergent identities, the analysis engages with an ethnographic study of social business events as spaces in which a particular social entrepreneurial vision gains appeal as a realizable approach. Such performances constitute a mode of practice that simultaneously signifies and (bodily) enacts social entrepreneurial ideals, thus rendering obsolete the discourse/subject-distinction often assumed in scholarly criticism of social entrepreneurship.

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Simon Teasdale, Fergus Lyon and Robyn Owen (Baldock)

Social enterprise is a contested concept which has become a site for policy intervention in many countries. In the UK the government has invested significant resources in social enterprise infrastructure, partly to increase the capacity of social enterprises to deliver or replace public services. Government publications show the number of social enterprises to have increased from 5300 to 62000 over a five-year period. This chapter explores the myth of social enterprise growth in the UK through a methodological critique of the four government data sources used to construct and legitimize this myth. Particular attention is paid to how political decisions influence the construction of evidence. We find that growth is mainly attributable to political decisions to reinterpret key elements of the social enterprise definition and to include new organizational types in sampling frames.

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Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert

In this chapter we make two contributions. The first consists of distinguishing three understandings of myth – myth as false explanation, myth as ideology, and myth as dialectic potential – which open up different, and partly complementary, possibilities for demystifying social entrepreneurship. To substantiate these theoretical distinctions, we review how these practices of demystification have been applied in the (critical) literature on social entrepreneurship. Our second objective is to stimulate the conceptual expansion of the third and least developed strategy of demystification, which we call ‘demystification from below’. To do so, we offer an empirical illustration to expound its workings. To conclude, we argue that the imperative of constant re-invention is due to the ever-present possibility that demystification becomes neutralized to the point where it becomes a mere cliché of its initial promise.

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Jenny Cameron

This commentary reflects on the two chapters in the section on ‘social entrepreneurship, relationality and the possible’. The chapters push at our understandings of social entrepreneurship. They start by taking a relational view of the world, exploring the importance of the relationships between people, and between people and ‘things’. In so doing they provide insights into social entrepreneurship as a social change practice not so much for finding accommodations in what is already present but for shifting the frame of what is thinkable and doable. They also document strategies for social change while also recognizing that social change is an unpredictable and uneven process that involves responding to the unexpected. Finally, the chapters invite reflection on the contribution of social research to the social change process by demonstrating how social research can be oriented towards ushering in the new, an orientation that is captured in the notion of research as a performative practice. This commentary takes up these themes of relationality, social change and research orientation.

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Janelle A. Kerlin and Tom H. Pollak

This chapter examines whether there has been an increase in non-profit commercial revenue and if so whether declines in government grants and private contributions were behind the rise. A number of non-profit scholars have held that non-profit commercial activity increased significantly during the 1980s and 1990s. Following on resource dependency theory, they suggest that non-profits use commercial income as a replacement for lost government grants and private revenue. However, authors for and against this thesis have provided little empirical evidence to test these claims. This study uses the Internal Revenue Services’ Statistics of Income database to track sources of revenue for charitable non-profit organizations from 1982 to 2002. Trend and panel analysis show that although there was a large increase in commercial revenue, there is little evidence the increase was associated with declines in government grants and private contributions. Findings point to institutional theory and have important implications for policymakers and non-profit practitioners.