Series of Doctoral seminars in social entrepreneurship – Summary for the EJEB (4): Pascal Dey (University of St. Gallen): Governing the social through “social entrepreneurship”: A Foucauldian view of power and governing in advanced liberal society (6th May)

Doctoral School in Management Sciences, UMons, HEC-ULg & Solvay-ULB Doctoral Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship (2013)

 This seminar held in the spring semester of 2013 aimed to equip doctoral students with theoretical and methodological skills for doing research in the field of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. The seminar traced social entrepreneurship research back to different approaches in economics, entrepreneurship and organization theory. Based on the critical analysis of theoretical and empirical articles, students got acquainted with several research avenues in the field. They then were asked to locate their own research project regarding the extant literature and to discuss their upcoming research agenda with the teachers and the other students. The 2013 edition was be organized against the background of the 4th EMES Research Conference on Social Enterprise  (Liege, 1-4 July 2013). As a way to share these efforts with the PhD community, the EJEB is launching a summary of each of the sessions included in this seminar. Each summary was written by PhDs participating in the Seminar.

Download the program of the Seminar here



The concept of institutional theory is most used in the field of research. Pascal Dey’s investigation is a real application of the Foucault’s approach which is clearly defined in a particular context and a particular program like the “Big society” in UK. Thus, he doesn’t analyze only the program and what it is about but also the technology used to translate the program into practice.

The presentation proceeded in three steps. First the clarification of the notions of neoliberalism as presented by Foucault, the governmentatlity, and how this new form of governing is strongly related to the problematization of the welfare state; second the role of Social entrepreneurship and what he calls the activation of the social and third the witches’ brew of actual practice: Social entrepreneurship and the space of counter-conducts.

In the literature, there are some researchers who connect social entrepreneurship and neoliberalism (Eikenberry, Grant, Ziegler, Mair, etc.). However, they observe empirically that the social entrepreneurship emerges higher in an area like market economy. The art of governing society in a sense of Foucault, is an activity which is not only related to the state or around to the sovereignty. Foucault was also interested in governing as a distributed activity. The expression “distributed activity” is used because of the involvement of both state and non-state actors.

The neologism Governmentality is viewed like the act of directing individual‘s and group‘s behaviors in particular directions by shaping their mentality. It addresses how people can be governed through their own volition.

The concepts of Wefarism, Post-welfarism and “Big Society” are evoked. Welfarism includes all systems whose purpose is to protect people against the financial consequences of social risks. Post-welfarism seeks to prevent excessive public expenditures by means of a new redistribution of roles and responsibilities.

In the UK, “Big Society” delineates an active role of civil society in our societies in general and in alleviating the current crisis in particular. The the role of civil society is redefined from a passive object of government to be acted upon and into an entity that is both an object and a subject of government.

The Social Entrepreneurship (SE) is a response to post-welfarism and it is an exemplary case of the normalizing of trading activities which try to rationalize as the best way forward for third sector organizations in particular into the UK. What SE does is to normalize the model based on a market, which prescribes some form of competition between providers to drive down capital costs and improve efficiency. The means of SE promotion individualize and economize the social by demanding entrepreneurial virtues and behaviours from organizations and people who until recently were not envisioned as entrepreneurs.

The concept of “counter-conduct” is an opposite of the “conduct of conduct”. The counter-conduct captures the close interrelationship between protests and the forms of government they oppose (Foucault). The “counter-conduct” encompasses the tactical reversals to which rationalities of governmentality are prone. That means “wherever there is power, there is also resistance”.

Some comment were made on the paradox of governing in what SE policies and programs try to accomplish is hardly ever in line with what they actually produce. There was also mentioned that the reality is more complex between “conduct of conduct” and “counter-conduct” which stand in a relationship of constant provocation. The research comes to a different conclusion in that practitioners who act as social entrepreneurs do so mainly to attain particular political or economic objectives (Dey & Teasdale, 2013).

Finally, some main questions mentioned below have been raised and debated by the participants.

Furthermore, the issue related to the difference between governance in company and governmentality was discussed. To the lecturer, governance in company is related to the best way to manage the company while governmentality is a “global governance”, an empirical approach that tries to answer how political program is implemented? What is the policy behind this? What could be the consequences? What are the weaknesses of the state?

Gildas_BangeMaster degree holder in Project Management, Gildas BAGNE is currently a PhD student at the Centre Emile Bernheim of Solvay Brussels School of Economic and Management (ULB). His field of research is Base of the Pyramid (BOP) Strategies in Sub-saharan Africa countries. Particularly, his is focused on Multinationals companies’ entrepreneurship processes through cross-sector alliances in order to establish innovative distribution networks and create value in the poor market in emergent and developing countries.

Dalida_kouotouDalida Kouotou is a currently a first year Ph.D. candidate in management and economics studying Management control system and social enterprise. She received her Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance, and Master’s degrees in Management and finance (2009) from the Catholic University of Central Africa (Cameroon) and then, Advanced Master in Financial Risk Management, specializing in Finance (2012) from the HEC Management school – University of Liege. Her research interests include Management control system implementation, social enterprise and Human resources. Her dissertation explores the reasons and the methodology for implementing a management control system in a social enterprise from the point of view of individuals and the key success factors in this implementation.


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