chapter  15
18 Pages

Tracing and theorizing ethics in entrepreneurship: toward a critical hermeneutics of imagination

WithPascal Dey, Chris Steyaert

In their critical analysis of entrepreneurship Jones and Spicer (2009: 115) end their study by suggesting that perhaps “what we find when we unmask the entrepreneur is the face of the other”; the face that, in the work of theorists like Levinas, Derrida or Badiou, symbolizes the par excellence ethical moment or event. Jones and Spicer further argue that “[e]thics is in fact absolutely central to debates about the entrepreneur” even though entrepreneurship studies “rarely comes clean about . . . the ethics of entrepreneurship” (p. 102). Indeed, it is uncommon for the ethical ‘question’ to be so clearly brought centre stage in debates of entrepreneurship. Jones and Spicer’s work is also notable for how it establishes ethics (whose teleological focus is the ‘good life’) and critique (which is preoccupied with denaturalizing, unmasking and problematizing self-evidences, myths and political truth-effects; Dey and Steyaert, 2012) as inextricably intertwined. Indeed, Jones and Spicer’s hint at the co-implication of the ethical and the political moment of entrepreneurship is significant insofar as even though there is a burgeoning literature of critical studies of entrepreneurship (e.g. Tedmanson et al., 2012; Verduijn et al., 2014), these critical analyses all too rarely go all the way by linking up political with ethical questions (Calás et al., 2009). As the ethics and politics of entrepreneurship are dealt with in separate academic debates, this results in a zero-sum logic where an emphasis on one phenomenon necessarily leads to the exclusion of the other. Given this situation, in this chapter, we try to untangle the ethico-political ‘conundrum’ of entrepreneurship studies by asking how ethico-politics can be related to an understanding of entrepreneurship as imagination (Gartner, 2007; Sarasvathy, 2002). A central contention of our argument is that ethico-politics as imagination takes shape through narrative practices rather than (merely) through a position of judgement based on normative principles and rules.