Green entrepreneurship – technological eco–innovations and ecopreneurs’ acts – has recently received much attention from European policymakers as one promising response to the challenges of sustainable economic development due to its potential to catalyze and build a low–carbon or green economy. This topical, discursive relationship has also gained increasing interest among scholars in academic circles. In European society, green entrepreneurship has been socially constructed as having a catalytic role in reshaping the sociotechnical landscape of the economy. This is predicated on the assumption that ecopreneurs bring about qualitative changes in enterprise structures, strategies, and practices, which are said to equate to similar changes in wider economic institutions giving ecopreneurs a significant role in engendering the kinds of cultural changes associated with ecological modernization. However, academic research on this relationship has put emphasis on individual ecopreneurs – although earlier work in innovation, technology and science studies has debunked the notion of lone entrepreneurial heroes in the development of new technologies, neglecting the wider sociotechnical context in which ecopreneurs operate. Therefore, I argue that ecopreneurs do not act in isolation with respect to catalyzing sustainable economic change. I moreover postulate that this relationship as part of mainstream debate on economic development and as a hegemonic discourse is constructed in the light of culturally–specific, historically–contingent, and episteme-conditioned conceptions about the social, political, institutional, economic, and technological changes. Hence, it is important not to conceive of this relationship as paradigmatic, apolitical, ahistorical, and the product of an epistematic understanding.
Grounded in a discursive theoretic approach, the aim of this study is to investigate the social and epistemic construction of green entrepreneurship in relation to sustainable economy and its political-economic implications. I employ a Foucauldian approach to discourse and discourse analysis to examine a set of research documents – empirical material. The analytical approach consists of six steps: (1) discursive constructions, (2) interdiscursivity, (3) epistemic setting, (4) cultural frames and shifts, (5) discursive–material selectivity, and (6) political practice and knowledge/power relationship.
The relationship between green entrepreneurship and sustainable economy as a scholarly discourse highlights the lone ecopreneurial heroes and reinforces new social relations. Apart from reconstructing the ecopreneurs’ image, the discourse reconstitutes their relations to society in such that they are assigned new missions and ascribed vital roles for building a low-carbon/green economy. It thus constitutes these actors into the prime definers of the constructed economic reality, while awarding some highlight to policymakers/governments. Moreover, the discourse has grounds from which it has emerged and evolved, building on a set of established discourses and thus engendering changes in economic, cultural, and social reality. Unsurprisingly, the discourse as an object of knowledge is a matter of episteme, a subset of the order underlying the European culture in this historical period. As knowledge claims, it is episteme–conditioned and historically–restricted – hence the need for being open to interrogations yet to come that may fundamentally reconfigure, or lead to abandoning, the currently prevailing assumptions. Furthermore, the discourse is shaped by the prevalent cultural frames and the emerging cultural shifts. In addition, the technological orientation of green entrepreneurship is the product of a selective framing of discursive and material dimensions. Therefore, green entrepreneurship technologization can be conceived as speciﬁc economic practices which depend on both the agency of ecopreneurs and other economic actors spurring technological eco–innovations as well as on hegemonic discourses on technology for sustainable development, innovation and technology policy, and the regulation governing the low-carbon/green economy. It is hence not a model, but the outcome of social processes. Finally, the discourse is affected by political practice in relation with climate change, shifts to a low–carbon/green economy, and ecological modernization, as well as by the knowledge/power relationship established in the European society. These two influences determine, expand - and will probably maintain – the success of the relationship under study.
Keywords: Discourse, episteme, green entrepreneurship, ecopreneurs, technological eco–innovations, low–carbon/green/sustainable economy, green and energy efficiency technologies, ICT, ecological modernization, European society