Everyone is an entrepreneur – a new ethos is sweeping through our economic world. While the promises of ‘being your own boss’ and ‘deciding about your working hours’ are surely appealing to many, what is at times forgotten are the effects such an ethos has on the structures of work and labour, on relationships both economic and more widely. The flipside of this updated version of the American dream and the (false) promise of meritocracy have always been self-responsibilisation and dangers of reproducing structural inequality.
Anthropological attention has already focused on certain aspects of this ‘new mantra’ of entrepreneurship. Specifically, issues related to platform-mediated labor – from gig work to modern white-collar job searching through for instance LinkedIn – have sparked the interest of ethnographers such as Ravenelle, Gershon, and Rosenblat. At the same time, other lines of work, closer to literature on development, are (critically) illuminating efforts to spread entrepreneurship and the supposed opportunities it holds as a way of increasing progress and empowerment to Africa, India, or the Global South more generally.
In this series Entrepreneurship and Technologies, in the spirit of Platypus and CASTAC, we will specifically focus on the role of technologies when it comes to entrepreneurship and startups. What the contributors will discuss ranges from the specificity of tech entrepreneurs – from Silicon Valley or otherwise – to the role of technology in becoming an entrepreneur (e.g. accelerating you). We will address questions around technology central to entrepreneurial ventures (what does a specific technology do in a particular startup, such as Clubhouse?) as well as more abstractedly about entrepreneurial ecosystems (what is the crucial function of the technology of storytelling for entrepreneurs?). The ambition of this series is to foster a stronger conversation – in anthropology and beyond – on what I believe is going to be one of the core driving forces of (future) economic activity. Anthropological attention is direly needed, specifically to understand from the bottom up, based on ethnographic and comparative research, what dangers the new era of (tech) entrepreneurship holds – from misinformation to threats to our social contracts and democracy – and how we can avoid them.
Part of the Thematic Series are: