Sub-theme 75: The Social Effects of Entrepreneurial Capitalism

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

Call for Papers

Entrepreneurship is enjoying great popularity in both the public domain and the academic community. Entrepreneurship courses are broadly offered in institutions of higher education; entrepreneurship is recognized as an academic domain in its own right, and entrepreneurship is frequently promoted to help resolve questions of youth unemployment, extreme poverty, climate change, the migration crisis, economic stagnation, and social exclusion.
While scholars have been fascinated with entrepreneurial capitalism as an economic system for decades (Baumol et al., 2007; Doody et al., 2016), an emergent body of work is beginning to scrutinize its social effects: how entrepreneurial capitalism (re-)produces, accelerates, and/or ameliorates socio-economic inequality, systemic inequities, power concentrations, class struggles and broader social problems (i.e., poverty, climate crisis, the rise of authoritarianism) (see Vedula et al., 2022; Van Wijk et al., 2019). This line of work conceptualizes entrepreneurship as an -ism, a new ideology that smooths over and further exacerbates the exploitation of people, such as gig workers, with few tools of retribution (Bröckling, 2007; Brandl and Bullinger, 2009; Bromley, Meyer, and Jia, 2022; Caliskan and Lounsbury, 2022; Eberhart, Barley, and Nelson, 2022). The Silicon Valley variant of entrepreneurship is often in researchers’ limelight, as it has proliferated globally and entangled people’s identities and dreams in the hopes of rapid wealth creation (Friederici, Whome, and Graham 2020; Irani 2019; Pollio 2021; Weiss and Weber 2016). Yet, prominent cases of fraud, deception, misconduct, and disillusionment among hallmark entrepreneurial organizations, such as Elizabeth Holmes’ Theranos (Carreyrou 2018), Adam Neumann’s WeWork (Thompson 2019), and Travis Kalanick’s Uber (Fowler 2020), bring to light the destructive and unproductive side of entrepreneurship (Baumol 1990; Palmer and Weiss 2022; Shepherd 2019).
More recently, work on emergent entrepreneurial forms – such as platform organizations like Alibaba, Upwork, and Uber – has illuminated the monopolistic and exploitative tendencies of entrepreneurship when gig workers are locked into new employment relationships (Vallas and Schor 2020) and work becomes an invisible cage managed by opaque algorithms (Rahman 2021) and experimentation regimes (Rahman, Weiss, and Karunakaran 2023). In light of such realities, the academic discourse is moving beyond understanding entrepreneurship as a process of business creation and, instead, towards reckoning with its direct, indirect, and (un)intended social effects.
Scholarship has an important role to play in documenting and critically examining entrepreneurship’s broader role in society beyond the typical focus on its immediate market and economic outcomes (see Vedula et al., 2022). As such, it needs to pierce through the often overly bright and optimistic mythology of entrepreneurship that exclusively highlights the benefits to society and its members. At the same time, scholars need to be careful not to fall into the trap of over-attributing a dark, pessimistic imagery to entrepreneurship. The normative “schizophrenia” of academia comes to full fruition in the entrepreneurship debate, with only a few studies balancing out the polarizing “bright” and “dark” side (see, for example, Steyaert and Hjorth, 2006; Teasdale, 2010; Diochon, 2013; Verduijn et al., 2014; Radoynovska, 2019; Toubiana and Ruebottom, 2022; Vedula et al., 2022). The time is thus ripe to further foster an academic forum for charting out new avenues for debate and research.
Building on successful editions of the sub-theme in 2021 and 2023, our goal is to continue to animate such a forum in which we can juxtapose and discuss the performative character of entrepreneurship in society, going beyond normative debates. Furthermore, in the spirit of this year’s overall colloquium theme “Crossroads for Organizations,” we seek to spotlight entrepreneurship’s effects on people’s identities and their interactions, considering how time, space, and people become entangled with, within, and through entrepreneurship.
This sub-theme is interested in fostering a conversation around the social effects of entrepreneurial capitalism, and we invite scholars to submit empirical or conceptual work that relies on a variety of theoretical perspectives, including organization theory, entrepreneurship, sociology, anthropology, urban studies, strategy, communications, as well as science and technology studies. Preference is given to work that examines entrepreneurship in underrepresented empirical settings (Abid et al. 2022; Charman, Petersen, and Govender 2020; Courpasson, Dany, and Martí 2016; Imas, Wilson, and Weston 2012; Kibler et al. 2022; Millar 2018; Pardo 1996; Ruebottom and Toubiana 2021). This could include, without being limited to, papers that address the following questions:

  • How does entrepreneurial capitalism involve, integrate, and exclude people across geographical spaces and with what effects on their identities?

  • How does entrepreneurship allow for, or prevent, individuals and social groups from transcending their own histories (particularly legacies of disadvantage and exclusion)? 

  •  How are imaginaries of entrepreneurship configured; how do they become enacted; what types of behavior become desired and celebrated, and which identity categories are privileged?

  • How do dominant imaginaries of entrepreneurship (e.g., high-growth, innovative, unicorn) manifest or alter systemic inequities?

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

  • How does entrepreneurial capitalism structure entrepreneurial organizations and organizing to address (but also exacerbate) grand challenges, such as climate change, inequalities, poverty, or health crises?

  • How does entrepreneurial capitalism evolve in response to increasing critiques originating from critical voices in popular media, policy circles, and academia?

  • How do different views of entrepreneurship reproduce – or challenge – gender, race, caste, and class privileges and shape/undo subordinated and precarious lives?

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

  • How do entrepreneurship’s effects on society differ by the context in which entrepreneurship unfolds (e.g., rural/urban; strong welfare/liberal states; global south/global north, etc.)?

  • What are the effects of entrepreneurship in society when viewed from different vantage points – such as different levels of analysis, over time, and comparatively?

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

  • How do conceptions of the self, actors, agency, and actorhood change as a result of the rise of entrepreneurship?

  • 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)?

  • What are the promises and limitations of entrepreneurship as a strategy for social change and transformation?



  • Abid, Muhammad, Joel Bothello, Shoaib Ul-Haq, and Alireza Ahmadsimab. 2022. “The Morality of Informality : Exploring Binary Oppositions in Counterfeit Markets.” Organization Studies.
  • Baumol, William J. 1990. “Entrepreneurship : Productive , Unproductive , and Destructive.” Journal of Political Economy 98(5):893–921.
  • Baumol, W. J., Litan, R. E., & Schramm, C. J. (2007). Sustaining entrepreneurial capitalism. Capitalism and Society, 2(2).
  • Brandl, J. and B. Bullinger. 2009. “Reflections on the Societal Conditions for the Pervasiveness of Entrepreneurial Behavior in Western Societies.” Journal of Management Inquiry 18(2):159–73.
  • Bröckling, U. 2007. Das Unternehmerische Selbst: Soziologies Einer Subjektivierungsform. Suhrkamp Verlag.
  • Bromley, Patricia, John W. Meyer, and Ruo Jia. 2022. “Entrepreneurship as Cultural Theme in Society.” Pp. 55–75 in Research in the Sociology of Organizations: Entrepreneurialism and Society. Vol. 81, edited by R. Eberhart, M. Lounsbury, and H. Aldrich. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Caliskan, Koray and Michael Lounsbury. 2022. “Entrepreneurialism as Discourse: Toward a Critical Research Agenda.” Pp. 43–53 in Research in the Sociology of Organizations: Entrepreneurialism and Society. Vol. 81, edited by R. Eberhart, M. Lounsbury, and H. Aldrich. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Carreyrou, John. 2018. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Charman, A., L. Petersen, and T. Govender. 2020. Township Economy: People, Spaces and Practices. HSRC Press.
  • Courpasson, D., F. Dany, and I. Martí. 2016. “Organizational Entrepreneurship as Active Resistance: A Struggle against Outsourcing.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 40(1):131–60.
  • Diochon, M. 2013. “Social Entrepreneurship and Effectiveness in Poverty Alleviation: A Case Study of a Canadian First Nations Community.” Journal of Social Entrepreneurship2 4(3):302–30.
  • Doody, S., Chen, V. T., & Goldstein, J. (2016). Varieties of entrepreneurial capitalism: The culture of entrepreneurship and structural inequalities of work and business creation. Sociology Compass, 10(10), 858-876.
  • Eberhart, Robert N., Stephen Barley, and Andrew Nelson. 2022. “Freedom Is Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose: Entrepreneurialism and the Changing Nature of Employment Relations.” Pp. 13–41 in Research in the Sociology of Organizations: Entrepreneurialism and Society. Vol. 81, edited by R. Eberhart, M. Lounsbury, and H. Aldrich. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Fowler, Susan. 2020. Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber. Penguin Random House.
  • Friederici, Nicolas, M. Whome, and Graham. 2020. Digital Entrepreneurship in Africa: How a Continent Is Escaping Silicon Valley’s Long Shadow. MIT Press.
  • Imas, J. M., N. Wilson, and A. Weston. 2012. “Barefoot Entrepreneurs.” Organization 19(5):563–85.
  • Irani, Lilly. 2019. Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India. Princeton University Press.
  • Kibler, E., Bernadetta A. Ginting-Szczesny, E. Vaara, and JK Heikkila. 2022. “Envisioning Entrepreneurial Engagement in North Korea.” Academy of Management Discoveries 8(3):459–89.
  • Millar, K. 2018. Reclaiming the Discarded. Life and Labor on Rio’s Garbage Dump. Duke University Press.
  • Palmer, D. and T. Weiss. 2022. “The Unique Vulnerabilities of Entrepreneurial Ventures to Misconduct.” Pp. 129–59 in Research in the Sociology of Organizations: Entrepreneurialism and Society, edited by R. Eberhart, M. Lounsbury, and H. Aldrich.
  • Pardo, I. 1996. Managing Existence in Naples: Morality, Action, and Structure. Cambridge University Press.
  • Pollio, Andrea. 2021. “Acceleration, Development and Technocapitalism at the Silicon Cape of Africa.” Economy and Society.
  • Radoynovska, N. 2019. Varieties of (Social) Entrepreneurship: Mechanisms of Social Change Through Entrepreneurial Initiatives in Disadvantaged Communities. Working Paper.
  • Rahman, Hatim A. 2021. “The Invisible Cage: Workers ’ Reactivity to Opaque Algorithmic Evaluations.” Administrative Science Quarterly 66(4):945–88.
  • Rahman, H., Weiss, T., & Karunakaran, A. 2023. The Experimental Hand: How Platform-based Experimentation Reconfigures Worker Autonomy. Academy of Management Journal. Forthcoming.
  • Ruebottom, Trish and M. Toubiana. 2021. “CONSTRAINTS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF STIGMA : ENTREPRENEURIAL EMANCIPATION IN THE SEX INDUSTRY.” Academy of Management Journal 64(4):1049–77.
  • Shepherd, Dean A. 2019. “Researching the Dark Side, Downside, and Destructive Side of Entrepreneurship: It Is the Compassionate Thing to Do!” Academy of Management Discoveries 5(3):217–20.
  • Steyaert, Chris and D. Hjorth. 2006. Entrepreneurship as Social Change. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • 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.
  • Toubiana, Madeline and Trish Ruebottom. 2022. “Stigma Hierarchies: The Internal Dynamics of Stigmatization in the Sex Work Occupation.” Administrative Science Quarterly 000183922210753.
  • Vallas, Steven and Juliet B. Schor. 2020. “What Do Platforms Do? Understanding the Gig Economy.” Annual Review of Sociology 46(1):1–22.
  • Vedula, Siddharth, Claudia Doblinger, Desirée Pacheco, Jeffrey G. York, Sophie Bacq, Michael V. Russo, and Thomas J. Dean. 2022. “Entrepreneurship for the Public Good: A Review, Critique, and Path Forward for Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship Research.” Academy of Management Annals 16(1):391–425.
  • Verduijn, K., P. Dey, D. Tedmanson, and C. Essers. 2014. “Emancipation and/or Oppression? Conceptualizing Dimensions of Criticality in Entrepreneurship Studies.” Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research 20(2):98–107.
  • Weiss, Tim and Klaus Weber. 2016. “The Art of Managing Worldviews in Kenya’s International Technology Sector.” Pp. 369–401 in Digital Kenya: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making, edited by B. Ndemo and T. Weiss. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Weiss, T., Eberhart, R., Lounsbury, M., Nelson, A., Rindova, V., Meyer, J., Bromley, P., Atkins, R., Ruebottom, T., Jennings, J., Jennings, D., Toubiana, M., Slade Shantz, A., Khorasani, N., Wadhwani, D., Tucker, H., Kirsch, D., Goldfarb, B., Aldrich, H., & Aldrich, D. (2023). The Social Effects of Entrepreneurship on Society and Some Potential Remedies: Four Provocations. Journal of Management Inquiry. Forthcoming.
Tim Weiss is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Imperial College London, United Kingdom. His research program sits at the intersection of entrepreneurship and society, analyzing the changing nature of entrepreneurship and its social effects. Tim is interested in the field and organizational level of analysis, studying phenomena like the emergence of Kenya’s Silicon Savannah, misconduct in and by startups, and experimentation by platform organizations.
Nevena Radoynovska is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Organisation and Social Entrepreneurship 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 and exclusion. 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.
Ignasi Martí is a Professor at the Politics, Society and Sustainability Department and Director of the Social Innovation Institute at ESADE Business School, Spain. Ignasi’s research focuses on different forms of individual and collective entrepreneurship and resistance, and other institutional and social change processes.