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Wolf in Shepherd's Clothing - Civilization vs. Liberation

Is the notion of entrepreneurship being misused by institutions to manipulate people's efforts for their own end?

Photo of Ashwin Gopi

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In the past two decades, entrepreneurship has been hailed as the savior of the masses, a way to escape from the constraints of corporations, as the ultimate form of self-expression and self-reilance, a solution to the problem of increasing domination by the evils of business.

Or is it?

Entrepreneurship seems to in fact heavily be inspired by the needs of big business. Rather than redfine the economic system of value and rewards, they seem to be playing the same game. The goal of "success" has been defined by profit, not creating value. The hallowed path of raising capital, selling stock and ultimately being purchased by a large company for a huge profit should make us suspicious. Is entrepreneurship then, an activity of producing value by people and for people, or the act of creating a product (the business itself) that can then be purchased and assimilated into a company to be used for its own ends?

At an alarming rate, small businesses are being bought out by larger competitiors, while the consumers remain blissfully unaware. Even business that were originally created to escape this form of exploitation seem to fall prey. From locally-made clothing, to organic vegetables, we're not aware that we're being sold products that seem and feel ethical, but are actually being sold to us by big business who are aware of the change in our value systems. They are able to do so by encouraging all forms of self-expression (using focus groups, surveys, inerviews and observations) to study the patterns of behavior that emerge.

Using that knowledge, they create products and services that appeal to the particular value system. Theoretically, it would even be possible to sell products to anarchist anti-consumerists as long as it fits their value system. This knowledge gives businesess a lot of power, and they can thus afford to allow entrepreneurs to emerge in large numbers to identify and find ways of generating profit, as long as they all stick to the same paradigm of economics.

How can we create a new model of entrepreneurship that breaks out of this exploitive model of "development" and rather allow people to solve actual problems that holds value for them?


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting provocations as always, Ashwin :^)

I guess perhaps that's why 'social entrepreneurism' in it's various forms made a departure from mainstream entrepreneurism? And do folks have examples to share here of entrepreneurs who are values-led rather than being 'exploitive' who fall outside of the social entrepreneurship set? Let's share and learn from some positive examples...

Photo of Dean Strautins

Hi Meena. We do not necessarily have to rely on social entrepreneurs as individuals with deep pockets because the relevant sustainable power is with many individuals that want to contribute to make a difference. Donating is an example of how many people pool their resources to make a big difference. Donating is commonly understood to be giving money to a cause that will consume the money rather than invest in self sustaining processes. I am not even aware of a donating App that enables people to share with others what they donate. Sure I have done it on FaceBook but that is somewhat synchronus and against the characteristics that technology should provide.

So if people are willing to poor money in to what too often can appear to be a bottomless pit, then imagine how benevolent would be people that could keep a record of their donations and compare it with others. Imagine if receipts for tax deductions on the donations were seamless and available to extract later when compiling ones tax return. I will later present the value adds that are missing and the mediums that do not exist to facilitate participation from people globally that have already proven they want to contribute.



Photo of Ashwin Gopi

True Meena, from the these discussions, we can see that community-owned businesses seem to preserve this form of local entrepreneurship. It feels sad that we need "social" entrepreneurship and differentiate it from other forms in the first place. Dean, imagine if we could evaluate businesses, and not just social ventures, based on human values and human dignity - the impact that it has on human life rather than on an economic system.

Photo of Dean Strautins

But they all become social ventures under my system. Every business gets evaluated the same way. To get more business then the monopolists will have to reveal what they do with the money they collect. If it is then shown that far distant share holders are taking the money out of the community it then becomes a decision for people to decide how much they want to support the monopolist via purchases. If a small business is heavily in debt so that 90% of the income goes to paying utilities and the banks then people may choose to not support them because not enough is staying in the community.



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