Traversing the Fantasy of the Heroic Entrepreneur

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Abstract

Purpose: While considerable critical energy has been devoted to unmasking the figure of the heroic entrepreneur, the idea that entrepreneurs are unique individuals with special abilities continues to be widespread in scholarly research, social media and popular culture. The purpose of this paper is to traverse the fantasy of the heroic entrepreneur by offering a reading of Richard Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity.
Design/methodology/approach: The theoretical approach of this paper is informed by Slavoj Žižek’s concept of fantasy and his critical analytical strategy of “traversing the fantasy”. Žižek offers a theoretical framework that allows us to understand how narratives of famous entrepreneurs create paradoxical fantasies that produce desire.
Findings: By offering a reading of Richard Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity, this paper serves to illustrate how the fantasy of the heroic entrepreneur creates the injunction to overcome oneself and become true to oneself, but also how this figure is ridden with contradictions and impossibilities. Branson’s book will eventually be shown to be a religious narrative, where the entrepreneur is responsible for redeeming the crises not only of the economy, but of being as such.
Originality/value: Rather than striving towards a processual approach that lays emphasis on the collective effort involved in entrepreneurship, this paper critically engages directly with the heroic entrepreneur by exploring how this figure is a fantasy that structures desire. This paper shows how critical entrepreneurship studies could benefit from an approach that analyses how the cultural representation of business celebrates the heroic entrepreneur as a source of value creation. The authors further argue that it is the contradictions and impossibilities embodied in the figure of the heroic entrepreneur that carry its far-reaching appeal.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
Volume23
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)228-244
Number of pages17
ISSN1355-2554
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Paradox
  • Entrepreneurial narratives
  • Fantasy
  • Žižek
  • Critical entrepreneurship studies

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