Critique of Entrepreneurship

Image: Felipe Futada


Under the entrepreneurial logic, everyone must be their own company, able to act in a society marked by social tragedy.

The Covid-19 pandemic surfaced at the beginning of 2020 and, since then, has intensified the serious economic problems of contemporary capitalism, especially in peripheral and dependent countries, such as Brazil. The intense social inequality, followed by the exponential increase in the number of unemployed, demonstrates that the dimension of the crisis we are in is tragic for the working class. According to the IBGE, 12,4 million Brazilians were unemployed in the fourth week of June; 2,6 million more than registered in the first week of May. At the beginning of September, the number of unemployed workers was estimated at 12,8 million Brazilians[I].

However, even at the most critical moment of the beginning of this century, the capitalist and business discourse tries to deny its responsibility for the social tragedy and seeks to impose its marketing agenda as the solution to the most urgent problems, mainly of the poorest population and most affected by social chaos. In this way, we have witnessed the mass propagation of the word entrepreneurship as a synonym for solution, modernity and progress, especially with regard to the directions of public education.[ii] and youth training. But, after all, what is such entrepreneurship?

Firstly, it is worth stating that what is propagated today as entrepreneurship has nothing to do with the Schumpeterian concept of “creative destruction”. [iii] and not even in the act of innovation, on the contrary, is it in a much more simplistic and contradictory position than the debate proposed between the Austrian author as historical materialism of Marx and Engels. In order to understand what the capitalist and neoliberal ideology propagates today as entrepreneurship, it is necessary to observe how the collaboration of the so-called Austro-American current[iv] (in the figures of authors such as von Mises and Hayek) is used as the basis of conceptions of hatred of the State and blind belief in the functioning of the market as a synonym for freedom and well-being. As Dardot & Laval (2016) state, this notion originates from the effort – mainly – by von Mises in wanting to make “economic science rest on a general theory of human action, a praxeology”. In a way, it is this perspective that creates figures like Murray Newton Rothbard[v] and his idea of ​​an “anarcho-capitalism”, adored by the extreme right, defender of a true war against the State and guided by an ultraliberal and violent agenda, with clearly neo-fascist characteristics.

The difference in relation to classical liberalism given by authors such as von Mises and Hayek consists in seeing competition in the market as a true process of discovering information, it is a certain attitude of the subject who overcomes others in the search for novelties and profits all the time. The market is conceived, therefore, as necessary for the formation of the economic subject, this is the subjective novelty present in these authors and what will shape the currently disseminated concept of entrepreneurship. One of the main promoters of this concept that is currently successful (against the Schumpeterian concept) and a direct disciple of von Mises is Israel Kirzner, who, understanding the market not as a place of exchange, but as a space for the formation of subjects, states: “every social actor is always an entrepreneur”. In this way, entrepreneurship is configured as an ethic, a way of thinking and acting, of being, a way of placing oneself in the world.

Following this line of reasoning, it is possible to note that the entrepreneur is the only possible social being within the proposed marketing perspective. According to Kirzner, following the aversion that von Mises showed against anything that could exercise some control over market action, it is a question of the right choice, made by the economic subject who was formed within this type of society and learned the best way to extract its benefits based on your practical actions. It is what has been called, within this tradition, “consumer democracy” against the “dictatorship of the presence of the State”. That is, the entrepreneur in today's society – imagining the market as a process of formation in itself – is no longer the capitalist or even the innovator of Schumpeter's classic concept, who incessantly changes the production process through its “creative destruction”, it is a subject alienated from social problems and equipped with a strictly commercial spirit that is always attentive to profit opportunities thanks to the information they have and others do not (Dardot & Laval, 2016).

It is not by chance that this ideology of entrepreneurship appears in direct communion with the conservative advance all over the world, accompanied by the rhetoric of the communist danger (through cultural Marxism) of the State and by the unrestricted adherence to an ultraliberal, marketing agenda, which has as its objective is the total privatization of life and the transformation of all subjects into companies of themselves, educated by the laws of the market and attentive to any profit opportunity. The subject, on a lonely journey and without anyone's support, except his own marketing acumen, must necessarily be adept at order and totally alienated from the structural contradictions of capitalism.

The interest in the writings of von Mises, Hayek and their disciples (such as Kirzner) is currently justified by the strategy of disinformation and fake news disseminated by an extreme right with increasingly medieval values, which basically consists of the idea that everything that is state-owned would be synonymous with of communism, dictatorship, corruption and ethical deviations that would not “exist” in the complete – and unrestricted – freedom of the market in the desired “consumer democracy”. This dimension of neoliberal discourse has the major communication vehicles as agents that play a fundamental role in convincing consciences[vi] that this is the only possible horizon, there are no alternatives. This action is also present in the programs developed by APHE's (private apparatuses of corporate hegemony)[vii] and its policy proposals when relating directly with the State, aiming at its business restructuring.

The exaltation of the logic of entrepreneurship in today's society seeks to affirm that, when exercising this function, the subject is above the relations of social classes. It is a dangerous discourse, which is based on the functional character that this type of exaltation has for the maintenance of capitalist society and its structural and irreparable contradictions. For the supporters of the solution through “entrepreneurship”, it doesn't matter if it is a salaried worker or a capitalist, everyone has to be educated to exercise the entrepreneurial function. For this, it is enough to have “willpower”, “determination”, “flexibility”, “resilience”, “proactivity”, “persistence”, “initiative” etc. Because it is the subject in its uniqueness that is solely responsible for its economic success or failure. The market ideology, as a synonym of efficiency in contrast to the inefficiency of state intervention, is seen as the “former” of the economic and entrepreneurial subject and, therefore, is the best form of sociability, education and discipline of individual actions. As Dardot & Laval (2016) state: “the process of market builds its own subject. He's self-constructive."

However, what we perceive within the current context, and the propagation of the logic of entrepreneurship, is a theory completely displaced from the concrete reality of the subjects, from history and from the consequent daily class struggle. From the point of view of a realistic analysis committed to the transformation of society, we cannot identify the “new” entrepreneurs as isolated subjects and displaced from the political reality in which they are inserted, on the contrary, this set of impoverished workers are thrown to their own devices[viii] by the marketing discourse of entrepreneurship when they become solely responsible for solving the social problems that surround them. The flexibilization of labor relations and the false sense of freedom need to be analyzed taking into account their direct articulation with the guidelines proposed by international entities, such as the World Bank[ix], IDB, IMF, since the attack on labor rights and the withdrawal of social protection for workers (such as unemployment insurance, accident insurance, sickness and retirement benefits) is a feature of this neoliberal discourse that disseminates entrepreneurial logic as a solution.

However, the entrepreneurial ideology is present in programs of the most varied private apparatuses of corporate hegemony (APHE's) and has been gaining more and more space in public policies and, in this way, redefining the role of the State, mainly with regard to access to education and culture in dependent countries such as Brazil. With the false discourse of “corporate social responsibility”, the subject is invited to alienate himself from the structural problems of society to focus on the development of his marketing skills so that he can create his own opportunities in a market of workers that is increasingly lacking. social rights.

The centrality of problems, such as income inequality and unemployment, shifts from the sphere of economic issues to the sphere of each individual's private life. With this, it is possible to notice that the practical function of the entrepreneurial ideology in current society is to erase the conflicts inherent to the contradiction between capital and work and its consequent class struggle, and to show itself as the solution of social problems in a misleading way. This privatist and marketing notion, which has entrepreneurship as its flagship, is being disseminated by the business narrative on a daily basis, as is the case of the newspaper “O Globo” in a recent editorial[X], reaffirming the need to promote the logic of entrepreneurship, including within the State, as a solution for Brazil to face the current economic and social crisis. The perspective of transforming each and every citizen into a business man (DARDOT, P; LAVAL, C, 2016), that is, a company of itself, consequently understands knowledge and education as something purely technical, linked to management and risk control which, therefore, would be the only knowledge necessary to solve serious problems in society.

Such an entrepreneurial solution is, therefore, one that teaches, from an early age, the subject to fend for himself, not to depend on anyone, to become politically alienated and to build his own history of failure or success. The entrepreneur is the model to be followed. The businessman would be the example of a high-tech subject, that is, attuned to new global trends. The brutal social inequality in which we are inserted is completely ignored. By reaffirming misconceptions such as the idea of ​​meritocracy, the real face of entrepreneurship is much more of a problem than a solution for future times.

Finally, it is worth reaffirming the objectives of the ideology of entrepreneurship today: the desire to convince everyone that we are in a society without structural contradictions, in which the State is the root of all problems, the worker needs to become his own company and he is cruelly held responsible for his future. This ideology fulfills the social function of intensifying inequalities, reaffirming what exists and consolidating business and marketing hegemony over society as a whole.

* Otávio Augusto Cunha is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate Program in History at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).



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DARDOT, P.; LAVAL, C. The new reason of the world: essay on neoliberal society. São Paulo: Editora Boitempo, 2016.

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[I]Source: IBGE

[ii][ii]Stauffer, Anakeila de Barros (Org.) Bourgeois hegemony in public education: problematizations in the TEMS course (EPSJV/PRONERA) / Organization by Anakeila de Barros Stauffer, Caroline Bahniuk, Maria Cristina Vargas and Virgínia Fontes. – Rio de Janeiro: EPSJV, 2018.

[iii]It is also necessary to note that, despite the idea of ​​entrepreneurship appearing in works prior to the 1934th century[iii], it was with Joseph Schumpeter (XNUMX) that the concept gained a forceful categorization with the aim of reaffirming the precepts of liberalism and the mode of production capitalist as a whole.

[iv]The adjective “Austro-American” here designates economists who immigrated to the United States or Americans who aligned themselves with the modern Austrian school, whose two most important theoretical and ideological figures are Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. In addition to the theories of the latter, the collaboration given by Israel Kirzner, a direct disciple of von Mises, is also important.

[v]Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School and disciple of von Mises. Historian and political philosopher who helped define the modern concept of libertarianism.


[vii] Lúcia Neves (org.), The new pedagogy of hegemony. Capital strategies to educate consensus, São Paulo, Xamã, 2005.

[viii]The most serious case currently, without a doubt, is that of application providers such as Rappi ou food. Totally precarious workers have no rights and no type of employment relationship.

[ix]the World Bank, in addition to massive loans, also provides advice and technical assistance to states and municipalities, as well as economic research on capitalist development.

[X]“The chance to rebuild the country and avoid repeating mistakes”, editorial. O Globo newspaper, 13/04/2020.

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