Sub-theme 70: The Bright and the Dark Sides of Entrepreneurship’s Social Effects

Ignasi Martí
ESADE Business School, Spain
Nevena Radoynovska
emlyon Business School, France
Tim Weiss
Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The broad promotion of entrepreneurship as economic and social policy makes entrepreneurial activity a new focal point for understanding capitalism (Boltanski & Chiapello, 2007; Brandl & Bullinger 2009; Gruidl et al., 2015). The agendas of national governments and transnational organizations push for entrepreneurship to address everything from youth unemployment, to economic stagnation and social exclusion. Similarly, entrepreneurship education is at an all-time high – taught not only in traditional educational settings but also at incubation hubs, acceleration spaces and international conferences. Such broad diffusion makes entrepreneurship a phenomenon that touches the lives of many around the globe. Yet, despite its prominence and proliferation, the façade of entrepreneurship has crackled through cases of fraud, deception, and misconduct of which Elizabeth Holmes’ Theranos (Carreyrou, 2018) and Adam Neumann’s WeWork (Thompson, 2019) are a few recent and illustrative examples. Increasingly, unbounded entrepreneurship leaves behind a bitter-sweet aftertaste (Davis, 2016).
Scholarship has an important role to play in going beyond the study of immediate market and economic outcomes to examine entrepreneurship’s social and societal effects. Intriguingly, research in this domain is often split into two normative camps. The focus is on either the optimistic, “bright” side of entrepreneurship (highlighting how the latter benefits society and its members), or – alternatively – on the pessimistic, “dark side” of entrepreneurship’s deleterious societal effects (such as enhancing economic inequality and power concentration). The goal of this sub-theme is to create a forum in which both sides begin to interact, with the aim of fostering a more nuanced debate. At the heart of the sub-theme is the 2021 EGOS colloquium main theme and the interest in examining the role of entrepreneurship for an inclusive society, including considerations of its exclusionary tendencies and possible remedies.
Scholars have identified numerous positive effects of entrepreneurship, including the latter’s ability to: promote individual transformation (Hjorth, 2015; Tobias et al., 2013), emancipation (Calas et al. 2009; Jennings et al., 2016; Rindova et al., 2009), and mobility (Alvord et al. 2004; Keister, 2000); foster community development (Diochon, 2003; Johnstone & Lionais, 2004); and contribute to changing gender norms (Haugh & Talwar, 2016; Sanyal, 2009). On the other hand, more critical perspectives have highlighted entrepreneurship’s undesirable social consequences, including: increases in regional and national inequality (see Lippmann et al., 2005; Sorensen & Sorenson, 2007); a lack of attention to power imbalances (Dey & Mason, 2018; Spinosa et al., 1999); appropriation of the discourse of (social) entrepreneurship to perpetuate the status quo (Dey & Steyaert, 2012; Hjorth & Holt, 2016; Verduijn & Essers, 2013); and an overly optimistic reliance on entrepreneurship to combat social exclusion (Blackburn & Ram, 2006). Beyond such functional debates, studies of entrepreneurship as culture (Berger, 1995) open up inquiries into the mythification of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship (Mauksch, 2016; Ogbor & Avenue, 2000), the acculturation processes that manufacture entrepreneurial actors (Katila et al., 2017) and its performative character in emerging economies of the Global South (Weiss & Weber, 2019). Seemingly, the cultural appeal and fetishization of certain entrepreneurial types, such as unicorns and college-drop outs, has prompted scholars to ground modern myths of entrepreneurship in empirical reality (Aldrich & Ruef, 2018; Azoulay et al., 2020; Shane, 2008).
The normative “schizophrenia” of academia comes to full fruition in the entrepreneurship debate. Yet, only a few studies have wrestled with both entrepreneurship’s “bright” and “dark” sides (see, for example, Verduijn et al., 2014; Diochon, 2013; Radoynovska, 2019; Steyaert & Hjorth, 2006; Teasdale, 2010). It is time for an academic forum to provide new avenues for debate and research. This sub-theme is particularly interested in fostering a conversation around the conditions under which entrepreneurship can be emancipatory and/or exclusionary. We invite scholars who seek to challenge the very meaning of “bright” and “dark” social effects by interrogating entrepreneurship from different viewpoints. We especially welcome empirical or conceptual work that relies on a variety of theoretical perspectives, including organization theory, entrepreneurship, sociology, anthropology, strategy, communications, as well as science and technology studies. Preference is given to work that examines entrepreneurship in underrepresented empirical settings (e.g., Courpasson et al., 2016; Imas et al., 2012; Marti & Mair, 2009; Pardo, 1996; Ruebottom & Toubiana, 2017).
This could include, without being limited to, papers that address the following questions:

  • Under what conditions does entrepreneurship lead to emancipation, for whom, and how?

  • Under what conditions does entrepreneurship reduce and/or exacerbate different forms of inequality?

  • Besides emancipation and inequalities, what other kinds of social effects does entrepreneurship produce, for whom, and how?

  • Do different types of entrepreneurship (e.g., technological, social, environmental, refugee) produce similar or different effects on society? How?

  • Which types of inequalities (e.g., class, gender, geographic, racial, etc.) are most often reduced or exacerbated by entrepreneurship?

  • How do entrepreneurship’s societal effects differ by the context in which entrepreneurship unfolds (inside vs. outside organizations; in rural vs. urban environments; in strong welfare states vs. liberal economies; global south vs. global north, etc.)?

  • How do different kinds of entrepreneurial ecosystems (e.g., depending on different configurations of actors) condition the social effects of entrepreneurship?

  • What are the social effects of entrepreneurship when viewed from different vantage points, such as levels of analysis (individual, group, community, societal), over time (historical and longitudinal analyses) and comparatively?

  • What measures can reliably assess the social effects of entrepreneurship?

  • How is the meaning system of entrepreneurship configured; how does it become enacted; what types of behavior become desired, and which identity categories are privileged?

  • How do conceptions of the self change as individuals become exposed to entrepreneurship?

  • What role do actors play in introducing, promoting and infusing entrepreneurship with a particularistic character in a given context?

  • What can we learn about entrepreneurship’s performative character by studying it in new settings (e.g., extreme poverty, the sex industry, prisons, primary schools, refugee camps)?


  • Aldrich, H.E., & Ruef, M. (2018): “Unicorns, gazelles, and other distractions on the way to understanding real entrepreneurship in America.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 32 (4), 458–472.
  • Alvord, S.H., Brown, L.D., & Letts, C.W. (2004): “Social entrepreneurship and societal transformation: An exploratory study.” The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 40 (3), 260–282.
  • Azoulay, B.P., Jones, B.F., Kim, J.D., & Miranda, J. (2020): “Age and high-growth entrepreneurship.” American Economic Review, 2 (1), 65–82.
  • Blackburn, R., & Ram, M. (2006): “Fix or fixation? The contributions and limitations of entrepreneurship and small firms to combating social exclusion.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 18 (1), 73–89.
  • Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2007): The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso.
  • Brandl, J., & Bullinger, B. (2009): “Reflections on the societal conditions for the pervasiveness of entrepreneurial behavior in Western societies.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 18 (2), 159–173.
  • Calas, M. B., Smircich, L., & Bourne, K. A. (2009): “Extending the boundaries: Reframing ‘entrepreneurship as social change’ through feminist perspectives.” Academy of Management Review, 34 (3), 552–569.
  • Carreyrou, J. (2018): Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Courpasson, D., Dany, F., & Martí, I. (2016): “Organizational entrepreneurship as active resistance: A struggle against outsourcing.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 40 (1), 131–160.
  • Davis, G.F. (2016): The Vanishing American Corporation: Navigating the Hazards of a New Economy. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Dey, P., & Mason C. (2018): “Overcoming constraints of collective imagination: An inquiry into activist entrepreneuring, disruptive truth-telling and the creation of ‘possible worlds’.” Journal of Business Venturing, 33 (1), 84–99.
  • Dey, P., & Steyaert, C. (2012): “Social entrepreneurship: Critique and the radical enactment of the social.” Social Enterprise Journal, 8(2), 90–107.
  • Diochon, M. (2013): “Social entrepreneurship and effectiveness in poverty alleviation: A case study of a Canadian First Nations community.” Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 4 (3), 302–330.
  • Gruidl, J., Stout, B., & Markley, D.M. (2015): “Entrepreneurship as a community development strategy.” In: R. Phillips & R. Pittman (eds.): An Introduction to Community Development. London: Taylor & Francis, 278–295.
  • Haugh, H.M., & Talwar, A. (2016): “Linking social entrepreneurship and social change: The mediating role of empowerment.” Journal of Business Ethics, 133 (4), 643–658.
  • Imas, J.M., Wilson, N., & Weston, A. (2012): “Barefoot entrepreneurs.” Organization, 19 (5), 563–585.
  • Hjorth, D. (2015): “Are entrepreneurship, communities, and social transformation related?” Journal of Management Inquiry, 24 (4), 419–423.
  • Hjorth, D., & Holt, R. (2016): “It’s entrepreneurship not enterprise: Ai Weiwei as entrepreneur.” Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 5, 50–54.
  • Jennings, J.E., Jennings, P.D., & Sharifian, M. (2016): “Living the dream? Assessing the “entrepreneurship as emancipation” perspective in a developed region.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 40 (1), 81–110.
  • Johnstone, H., & Lionais, D. (2004): “Depleted communities and community business entrepreneurship: revaluing space through place.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 16 (3), 217–233.
  • Keister, L.A. (2000): Wealth in America: Trends in Wealth Inequality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lippmann, S., Davis, A., & Aldrich, H.E. (2005): “Entrepreneurship and inequality.” In: L.A. Keister (ed.): Entrepreneurship. Bingley: Emerald, 3–31.
  • Marti, I., & Mair, J. (2009): “Bringing change into the lives of the poor: Entrepreneurship outside traditional boundaries.” In: T.B. Lawrence, R. Suddaby & B. Leca (eds.): Institutional Work: Actors and Agency in Institutional Studies of Organizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 92–119.
  • Mauksch, S. (2016): “Managing the dance of enchantment: An ethnography of social entrepreneurship events.” Organization, 24 (2), 133–153.
  • Ogbor, J.O., & Avenue, C. (2000): “Mythicizing and reification in entrepreneurial discourse: Ideology-critique of entrepreneurial studies.” Journal of Management Studies, 37 (5), 605–635.
  • Pardo, I. (1996): Managing Existence in Naples: Morality, Action, and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Radoynovska, N. (2019): “Varieties of (social) entrepreneurship: Mechanisms of social change through entrepreneurial initiatives in disadvantaged communities.” Working paper.
  • Rindova, V., Barry, D., & Ketchen, D.J. (2009): “Entrepreneuring as emancipation.” Academy of Management Review, 34 (3), 477–491.
  • Ruebottom, T., & Toubiana, M. (2017): “Biographical opportunities: how entrepreneurship creates pride in alterity in stigmatized fields.” Academy of Management: Proceedings,
  • Sanyal, P. (2009): “From credit to collective action: The role of microfinance in promoting women’s social capital and normative influence.” American Sociological Review, 74 (4), 529–550.
  • Shane, S. (2008): The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Sorensen, J.B., & Sorenson, O. (2007): “Corporate demography and income inequality.” American Sociological Review, 72 (5), 766–783.
  • Spinosa, C., Flores, F, & Dreyfus, H.L. (1999): Disclosing New Worlds. Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Steyaert, C., & Katz, J. (2004): “Reclaiming the space of entrepreneurship in society: Geographical, discursive and social dimensions.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 16 (3), 179–196.
  • Steyaert, C., & Hjorth, D. (2006): Entrepreneurship as Social Change. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Teasdale, S. (2010): “How can social enterprise address disadvantage? Evidence from an inner city community.” Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 22 (2), 89–107.
  • Thompson, D. (2019): “WeWork’s Adam Neumann is the most talented grifter of our time.” The Atlantic. Retrieved from
  • Tobias, J.M., Mair, J., & Barbosa-Leiker, C. (2013): “Toward a theory of transformative entrepreneuring: p\Poverty reduction and conflict resolution in Rwanda’s entrepreneurial coffee sector.” Journal of Business Venturing, 28 (6), 728–742.
  • Verduijn, K., & Essers, C. (2013): “Questioning dominant entrepreneurship assumptions: The case of female ethnic minority entrepreneurs.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 25 (7–8), 612–630.
  • Verduijn, K., Dey, P., Tedmanson, D., & Essers, C. (2014): “Emancipation and/or oppression? Conceptualizing dimensions of criticality in entrepreneurship studies.” International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 20 (2), 98–107.
  • Weiss, T., & Weber, K. (2019): “Silicon Valley within reach: Entrepreneurial capitalism in Kenya.” Working paper.
Ignasi Martí is a Professor at the Politics, Society and Sustainability Department and the Director of the Social Innovation Institute at the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Ignasi’s research focuses on different forms of individual and collective entrepreneurship and resistance, and other institutional and social change processes.
Nevena Radoynovska is an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Organisation at emlyon Business School, France. Her research focuses on the organizational and institutional factors that contribute to, but also potentially alleviate, social problems – particularly various forms of inequality. Notably, Nevena’s research examines how different forms of entrepreneurship and hybrid organizing are used as a means for achieving socio-economic change in disadvantaged communities.
Tim Weiss is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College London, United Kingdom. He is an organizational theorist who studies the rise of start-up entrepreneurship, particularly in Kenya and the U.S. Tim conducts cultural analyses of start-up entrepreneurship to explain its worldwide expansion and social effects.