Accepted Paper:

Occupying 'enterprise': the radical appropriation of entrepreneurship  
James Debowski (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

Observers often problematically demand radical entrepreneurs reject normative business practices entirely before seeing them as legitimately non- or anti- capitalist. Radical entrepreneurs in Catalonia operate across these perceived binaries to produce robust political and economic projects.

Paper long abstract:

Portrayals of activist practice are often limited to the spectacular and contentious - large urban manifestations, picket lines and the (sometimes illegal) occupation of buildings and landmarks. To paraphrase David Graeber, these are often just the tips of much larger social movement icebergs. In Catalonia, an autonomous region northeast of Spain, the left-libertarian and anarchist movement field is marked by a burgeoning and increasingly diverse entrepreneurial sector. Here, activists are appropriating the discourse and practice of entrepreneurship to fashion new sources of income, work, and material provisioning reflecting radical political and social tenets.

This presentation draws on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork within Catalonia's radical entrepreneurial sector, and in particular within an illegal, community-oriented brewing cooperative. Consumers and critics alike often demand entrepreneurs completely disavow normative business practices before attributing them legitimacy as non- or anti-capitalist endeavours. I argue that radical entrepreneurship entails a degree of heterogeneity often obscured within notions of post-, anti- and non-capitalist practice. Entrepreneurs on the ground demonstrate that viable, radical entrepreneurship requires careful negotiation between commonly perceived binaries - between legal and illegal property use, social currency and state fiat and formal and informal organization, to name a few. This presentation explores how entrepreneurs negotiate between these domains, curating their entrepreneurial structure and brand accordingly. The presentation emphasizes the heterogeneity entailed within radical entrepreneurship, and problematizes the effectiveness of pigeonholing projects as inherently anti-, post- or non-capitalist enterprises.

Panel P02
The economy is dead. Long live the economy? Towards an anthropology of radical entrepreneurship