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Up for grabs: A critical discourse analysis of social entrepreneurship discourse in the United Kingdom

Chris Mason (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 10 August 2012




Current social entrepreneurship (SE) literature advocates a critical reexamination of the core construct. As such, and based on the seemingly endless definitional debate among academics, this paper seeks to empirically analyse social entrepreneurship discourse in the United Kingdom. It aims to posit that this debate is in fact detrimental to a more coherent and evenly distributed discourse. Furthermore, the ensuing ambiguities suit other, more powerful participants, and keeping this debate live allows the discourse to be shaped.


The author utilised critical discourse analysis (CDA) in this study, developing a personal qualitative data set (including a third sector and SE corpora containing SE policies covering 2002‐2008). This data set was then subjected to an online analysis tool WMatrix, and both sets were compared with a widely used base line corpus.


The findings show that SE discourse is now firmly attached to public policy discourse. Furthermore, this public policy concerning SE was heavily imbued with political language and ideology. Thus, the findings show empirically that SE is characterised in broader public policy debates as a politically re‐constructed concept.

Research limitations/implications

SE will continue to be a contested concept in the public sphere, however further research should explore the potential of dissensus from political reconstructions as a powerful counter‐discourse.


This study is among the first to utilise CDA to interrogate SE discourse, and the analysis provides novel insights for academics and practitioners to reinterpret and contest SE as more than the solution for failing public services.



Mason, C. (2012), "Up for grabs: A critical discourse analysis of social entrepreneurship discourse in the United Kingdom", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 123-140.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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