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The Symbolic Violence of 'Social Entrepreneurship' : Language, Power and the Question of the Social (Subject)

abstract In the field of social entrepreneurship research there are only few inquiries which approach language in terms of its symbolic violence. That is to say that language has not been properly addressed as a strategic means for governing social entrepreneurship by (a) endowing the concept with a particular societal utility function and by (b) providing a grid of intelligibility for the ‘conduct’ of practicing social entrepreneurs. Departing from the assumption that violence is not some extra-linguist social reality but inherent to systems of dominant meaning, the present contribution elaborates on how language favours a particular way of thinking about social entrepreneurship and, most importantly, how this linguistically mediated rationality forms the basis of a strategy for governing community affairs. The objective of the contribution is threefold. First, it aims at kindling an understanding of the symbolic power of language, showing how the meaning of social entrepreneurship is scripted according to the changed social conditions of advanced liberal societies. In doing so, it is demonstrated that social entrepreneurship is rationalized according to a neoliberal political rationality. The neoliberal signification of social entrepreneurship is reflected historically so as to show how social entrepreneurship gets employed in transforming the question of societal responsibility by inscribing ideas of efficiency, management savvy and entrepreneurship into the body of the social. Second, and related to the first point, the contribution seeks to adumbrate language’s violence as epitomized in the process of subjectivation (i.e. the discursive creation of subjects). This entails highlighting how the rationality of social entrepreneurship hails individuals in the social domain to adopt a responsible stance and an entrepreneurial attitude towards the alleviation of social problems. Social entrepreneurship thus gets depicted as a government technique which no longer sees the state as being responsible for the creation and safeguarding of societal equilibrium, but which relies on the normalization of the figure of the entrepreneur of one’s self and hence on the imperative that individuals must relate to, and constantly improve their own bodies as a means of social value creation. The third part, then, discusses the limits of individual self-governance (‘conduct of conduct’) according to the managerial signification of social entrepreneurship. To this end, it is suggested that practicing social entrepreneurs are never fully dominated by strategic discourse, and that one must not underestimate the transgressive capacity of individuals in the process of their self-narration. To substantiate this theoretical claim, available discursive investigations are invoked to illustrate both how strategic discourse engenders conflicts and tensions within the field of practice and how practicing social entrepreneurs apply transgressive strategies in the narration of their own existence. Each of the three parts concludes with a brief summary of the main implications deriving for the research agenda of social entrepreneurship.
type conference paper (English)
keywords Social Entrepreneurship, Violence, Language, Discourse, Dispositif, Resistance
name of conference 3rd 2010 Research Colloquium on Social Entrepreneurship (Oxford UK)
date of conference 22-6-2010
publisher Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (Oxford)
review not reviewed
citation Dey, P. (2010). The Symbolic Violence of 'Social Entrepreneurship': Language, Power and the Question of the Social (Subject). In . Oxford: Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.