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Where have all the radicals gone? How normative pressures can blunt the radical edge of a social enterprise

Peter Francis Wheeler (Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




This paper aims to track the operations of a radical social enterprise, “New Horizon”, which attempted to provide a different approach to improve the independent living and employment opportunities for disabled people. The longitudinal study covers a period from the new labour project in the late 1990s to current austerity measures.


The project applied an emancipatory disability research agenda which places both the social and material relations of knowledge in the hands of the disabled participants.


Under the neo-liberal marketisation of public services, the radical nature of the organisation needed to be tempered, as different stakeholder groupings required different and not always complementary approaches to be undertaken to maintain legitimacy. Neo-institutional pressures tended to drive the organisation towards conformity with similar more mainstream rivals meaning the radical approach which assisted the formation of the organisation became less observable.


This research provides a unique insight into the systemic challenges faced by a social enterprise attempting to improve the independent living/employment prospects of disabled people. The longitudinal nature of the study illustrates how similar radical social enterprises, policymakers and researchers can understand how normative forces act in opposition to radical agendas.


This longitudinal study of a radical disability organisation which is undertaken through an emancipatory disability research agenda provides a unique insight into a marginalised and largely disenfranchised group in society. The paper provides a voice for the disabled stakeholders of New Horizon and hence differs from the majority of social research in that interpretations and analyses arise from the knowing subjects of research as opposed to the more traditional non-disabled academic research community.



Wheeler, P.F. (2017), "Where have all the radicals gone? How normative pressures can blunt the radical edge of a social enterprise", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 13 No. 02, pp. 163-179.



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