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Emancipation and/or oppression? Conceptualizing dimensions of criticality in entrepreneurship studies

Karen Verduijn (Department of Management & Organization, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Pascal Dey (University of St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland)
Deirdre Tedmanson (Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Magill, Australia)
Caroline Essers (VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 24 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to use the attribute “critical” as a sensitizing concept to emphasize entrepreneurship's role in overcoming extant relations of exploitation, domination and oppression. It builds on the premise that entrepreneurship not only brings about new firms, products and services but also new openings for more liberating forms of individual and collective existence.


Honing in on Calas et al.'s (2009) seminal piece on critical entrepreneurship studies, and building on Laclau's (1996) conceptualization of emancipation as intimately related to oppression, the paper explores different interpretations of emancipation and discuss these from a critical understanding of entrepreneurship. The paper then employs these interpretations to introduce and “classify” the five articles in this special issue.


The editorial charts four interpretations of emancipation along two axes (utopian-dystopian and heterotopian-paratopian), and relates these to various strands of critical entrepreneurship research. United by a general commitment to positive change, each interpretation champions a different take on what might comprise the emancipatory or oppressive potential of entrepreneurship.


As the emancipatory aspect of entrepreneurship has attracted increasing attention among entrepreneurship researchers, the paper formulates a tentative framework for furthering views on the emancipatory aspects of entrepreneurship as a positive phenomenon in critical research – which to date has tended to be preoccupied with the “dark side” of entrepreneurship.



Verduijn, K., Dey, P., Tedmanson, D. and Essers, C. (2014), "Emancipation and/or oppression? Conceptualizing dimensions of criticality in entrepreneurship studies", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 98-107.



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