Social Entrepreneurship: Sociality, Ethics, and Politics

Bandinelli, Carolina. 2017. Social Entrepreneurship: Sociality, Ethics, and Politics. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Social entrepreneurship is a growing cultural phenomenon that involves a variety of actors – politicians, academics, business men and women, private citizens - across a range of interconnected fields – e.g. social work, sustainable development, the sharing economy and technological innovation. Notwithstanding its heterogeneous manifestations, social entrepreneurship is characterised by the attempt to re-embed social and ethical dimensions within the individualised conduct of the entrepreneur of the self. The aim of this dissertation is to investigate how this process is thought of and negotiated on a subjective level by young social entrepreneurs in London and Milan. Based on an understanding of social entrepreneurs as individuals who perceive work as a means for self-expression, I contextualise this enquiry within the field of cultural studies on the changing nature of labour in neoliberal societies. This thesis draws on an 18-month period of multi-sited and reflexive fieldwork that involved recorded interviews, participant observation and action research. Combining thick ethnographic descriptions and theoretical analysis, I focus on social entrepreneurs’ understanding of sociality, ethics, and politics, in so far as they are intertwined with the discourses and practices of entrepreneurship. My argument develops in three stages: to begin with, I show that social entrepreneurs engage in opportunistic and compulsory sociality; then, I dwell on social entrepreneurs’ individualised form of ethics; finally, I contend that social entrepreneurs enact and embody a post-political subjectivity. This subjectivity is defined by discourses and actions whose scope and significance are restrained within the bounds of individuals’ experience and influence. What remains inevitably excluded from this conception of politics is the possibility to of formulating a structural analysis of social issues. In this respect, my research may be regarded as a study on how the neoliberal subject par excellence – the entrepreneur of the self – attempts to retrieve and reclaim her political and ethical agency, and what the implications and limits of this endeavour are.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


social entrepreneurship, social innovation, neoliberalism, entrepreneur of the self, subjectivity, network sociality, post-politics, individualism, ethnography

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 May 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Jun 2017 09:38

Last Modified:

18 Oct 2022 12:38


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