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The abject of entrepreneurship: failure, fiasco, fraud

Lena Olaison (Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Bent Meier Sørensen (Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Publication date: 24 March 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Failure as an integral part of the entrepreneurial process has recently become a hot topic. The purpose of this paper is to review this debate as expressed both in research on entrepreneurship and in the public discourse, in order to understand what kind of failure is being incorporated into the entrepreneurship discourse and what is being repressed.

Design/methodology/approach

The research design is twofold: an empirical investigation modelled as a discourse analysis is followed by a psychoanalytically inspired deconstruction of the identified hegemony. Where the discourse analysis treats what is omitted, the purpose of the psychoanalytic analysis is to point out more concretely what is being repressed from the hegemonic discourses that the first part of the paper identified.

Findings

The paper identifies a discursive shift from focusing on entrepreneurial success while at the same time negating failure, to embracing failure as a “learning experience”. Second, we trace this “fail better”-movement and identify a distinction between the “good failure” from which the entrepreneur learns, and the “bad failure” which may also imply a moral breakdown. Finally, the paper attempts to deconstruct this discourse deploying Kristeva's idea of the abject. The paper argues that the entrepreneurship discourse seeks closure through abjecting its own, real kernel, namely: the everyday, common, entrepreneurial failure. This image comprises the abject of entrepreneurship, and abject which does becomes visible, however, rarely: Bernie Madoff, Jeff Skilling, Stein Bagger.

Originality/value

This paper fulfils an identified need to study the darker and unwanted sides of entrepreneurship and extends our understanding of failure in entrepreneurial processes.

Keywords

Citation

Olaison, L. and Meier Sørensen, B. (2014), "The abject of entrepreneurship: failure, fiasco, fraud", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 193-211. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-09-2013-0143

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited