Social Entrepreneurship Discourse(s) in Germany: The First Two Decades

Kenel, Philipp. 2023. Social Entrepreneurship Discourse(s) in Germany: The First Two Decades. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Social entrepreneurship (SE) is a contested concept that evokes conceptual confusion. SE advocates ‘change’, but it remains unclear what exactly should ‘change’ and how, and what sort of economy and society SE ultimately envisions. To the extent that some interpret SE as a neoliberal phenomenon, transforming the social and welfare sectors, while for others, it represents an alternative to the (neoliberal) capitalist economic model. In Germany, political interest in SE has started growing in the early 2020s, as a SE scene is developing more fully. However, due to a lack of empirical research, little is known about the normative and political underpinnings of the German SE movement – in particular, beyond the initial phase of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and findings for other contexts can only give limited insight.

This doctoral thesis aims at better understanding the concept and phenomenon of SE in Germany from a sociological perspective. Drawing on discourse analysis, the thesis studies the contested meanings of the SE concept, how they are constructed, and how they develop over time. Based on the assumption that newspapers are important arenas for producing ‘common’ knowledge, the empirical study consists of an analysis of representations of SE in 349 newspaper articles between 1999 and 2021. While narratives around SE are consistently ambiguous, dynamic and contested, three periods were identified in the analysis, in which certain perspectives on SE are dominant. From 1999 to 2008, SE is mainly understood as a reform of the welfare infrastructure. Between 2009 and 2014, SE is increasingly conceptualised as part of the economy. From 2015, there are two main currents: one sees SE becoming part of the ‘start-up’ world and, on the other hand, SE is conceived as a phenomenon that contributes to a social and ecological transformation of the economy.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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social entrepreneurship, empirical discourse research, economic and social thought, capitalism, neoliberalism, alternative economies

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 April 2023

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2023 13:32

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2023 14:48


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