Utopia failed? Social enterprise everyday practices and the closure of neoliberalism



Mazzei M, Montgomery T & Dey P (2021) Utopia failed? Social enterprise everyday practices and the closure of neoliberalism. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 39 (7), pp. 1625-1643.

In the context of recurrent economic crises, ‘alternative’ models of economic organising such as social enterprise offer compelling examples of utopian imageries of a better future ‘to come’. Social enterprise qua utopia implies not only that alternative ways of being and co-existence are desirable, but that there is often a disjuncture between the desirable futures such utopian imaginaries project and the extent to which they are actualised or even actualisable in practice. The UK, which has long been considered the most conducive environment for social enterprise activity, offers a fertile ground to study this tension between utopian imagination and empirical actualization. Drawing from three large-scale research projects focusing on the social economy in Scotland and the North of England, this paper explores the link between social enterprise as a political program and as lived material practices unfolding under conditions of extreme resource scarcity caused by austerity measures. Our findings reveal that whatever utopian impulse social enterprise might contain, it is constituted, in the last instance, in the movement between ideas and everyday life, i.e. the aggregate of mundane practices, routines and experiences. Attentiveness to the precariousness instigated through austerity measures, such as social budget cuts, the key contribution this paper makes is to jettison approaches that treat social enterprise as a context-independent and totalizing ideal that divorces its utopian potential from the everyday practices through which this potential is being realized.

Utopian program; social enterprise; everyday practices; context; neoliberalism; precariousness; UK; austerity

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space: Volume 39, Issue 7

FundersGlasgow Caledonian University
Publication date30/11/2021
Publication date online09/08/2021
Date accepted by journal13/07/2021
PublisherSAGE Publications

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Dr Tom Montgomery

Dr Tom Montgomery

Lecturer in Work & Organisations, Management, Work and Organisation