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The moral space in entrepreneurship: an exploration of ethical imperatives and the moral legitimacy of being enterprising

Alistair Anderson and Robert Smith

Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 2007, vol. 19, issue 6, 479-497

Abstract: This paper explores the morality associated with entrepreneurship. It has been argued that there is no moral space in entrepreneurship, but such instrumental views may miss out much of the nature of enterprise and how it is understood. Consequently we propose that a socially-constructed perspective, based upon the meanings of entrepreneurship, may help to understand the morality of entrepreneurship. By applying such a lens, we find that the narratives and discourses of the meanings of entrepreneurship are ideological and clearly present a moral space. This space lies between the individual and society and is normatively articulated in entrepreneurial discourses. We develop a tentative framework which links values and outcomes that shows how ‘authenticated’ entrepreneurship, that is to say that which resonates with a socially approved moral dimension, is legitimized by comparisons with the socially constructed view. The empirical part of the paper comprises of two case stories. The first is a local garage owner who has a reputation as a decent man; the second is a notorious, but entrepreneurial London gangster. Our analysis shows that to be judged ‘entrepreneurial’, it is not enough to act entrepreneurially; the social constructs of public perceptions entail examining both moral means and moral ends. We conclude that there is a moral imperative in entrepreneurship.

Date: 2007
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DOI: 10.1080/08985620701672377

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