Disclosing new worlds: Entrepreneurship, democratic action, and the cultivation of solidarity

Inquiry 38 (1 & 2):3 – 63 (1995)
Abstract
Both the commonsensical and leading theoretical accounts of entrepreneurship, democracy, and solidarity fail to describe adequately entrepreneurial, democratic, and solidarity?building practices. These accounts are inadequate because they assume a faulty description of human being. In this article we develop an interpretation of entrepreneurship, democratic action, and solidarity?building that relies on understanding human beings as neither primarily thinking nor desiring but as skillful beings. Western human beings are at their best when they are engaged in producing large?scale cultural or historical changes in the way people and things are dealt with. The three domains of human activity where these historical changes are most clearly accomplished are entrepreneurship, democratic action, and solidarity. Section I, guided by a roughly Kuhnian notion of holding on to an anomaly until it re?gestalts the way we see things, offers a general interpretation of how skillful human beings open up new worlds by changing their shared background practices in three ways: reconfiguring, which makes a marginal practice central; cross?appropriation, in which one domain of practices takes over useful practices from another domain; and articulating, whereby dispersed or confused practices are brought into clearer focus. An entrepreneur creates a product which reconfigures the practices. This interpretation of entrepreneurial skills is contrasted with current accounts that overlook ehtrepreneurship to concentrate on instrumental or theoretical models of business activities. Section II claims that the most exemplary kind of political action in a liberal democracy is that of political action groups. Such groups produce a change in a nation's background practices through a kind of speaking that leads to massive cross?appropriation. We describe Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and suggest that it both satisfies the requirements for genuine democratic action that we have established in our examination of other views and lacks their disadvantages. We conclude that the relatively detached action suggested by current theories of liberal democracy fail to do justice to democratic practice. The final section argues that those who claim that a single highest value or procedure provides a source of solidarity that satisfies all the competing interests in a multi?cultural nation always arrive at a solidarity that is too thin to provide for the serious sort of commitments that one would be willing to die for. We propose that solidarity in multi?cultural states implies commitment to a set of thick values, and that when one realizes that these thick values construct one's identity one is willing to die for them. While political action concerns itself with ordering values, solidarity involves the cultivation of them in such a way that no ordering of them matters. But solidarity is not to be understood as a subjective feeling. It is rather the experience of a group identity, a ?we?, that sees things and deals with things in terms of shared concerns. This ?we? comes to recognize itself when the actions it engages in transform it. The paradigmatic action that transforms such a ?we? occurs when a culture figure articulates some forgotten concern or value. As in the cases of entrepreneurship and democratic action, a culture figure cultivates solidarity by changing the background practices in a historical manner. It is concluded that traditional theoretical accounts, by overlooking the primacy of involved skillful activities and the importance of background change, fail to capture the source, the function, and the point of entrepreneurship, liberal democracy, and solidarity
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ISBN(s) 9780262692243  
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