The Abject of Entrepreneurship: Failure, Fiasco, Fraud

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    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)193-211
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Highly Commended paper award.


    • Entrepreneurship
    • Discourse
    • Failure
    • Abject
    • Entrepreneurial process
    • Psychoanalysis

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