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Narratives of enterprise as epic tragedy

Research output: Working paper

Publication date2006
Place of PublicationLancaster University
PublisherInstitute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameEntrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Working Paper Series


Purpose: This paper explores the power of narrative in management and enterprise research. It is inspired by Paul Ricoeur's philosophical understanding of the relationship between life and narrative. He draws on Aristotle's Poetics and the notion of emplotment (muthos in Greek), which embodies both imaginary story (fable) and well-constructed story (plot). This study identifies aspects of narratives of enterprise which resonate with Aristotle's key elements of emplotment in tragedy. Methodology/Approach: This qualitative, interpretive study relies on narrative as a way of knowing and as a form of communication. The stories as told by sixteen participants in in-depth interviews, are analysed and interpreted in terms of the key elements set out in Aristotle's Poetics reversals, recognition and suffering. Findings: This form of literary interpretation throws into relief aspects of the founding of a family business across the generations. The dynamics of the 'family' in the business, the nature and extent of the family engagement in the business is revealed. Research Limitations/Implications: This paper contributes to understanding the intergenerational dynamics of family and business. It illustrates, therefore, that study of the family is central to understanding family business. This calls into question the common assumption that the individual owner manager, or entrepreneur, is synonymous with the business, and therefore necessarily the most appropriate focus for research. Originality/value: The narrative approach has remained, to date, under-utilised in family business research. In adopting Aristotlean principles as a framework this study links enterprise activity with the central traditions of Western literature and provides a fresh understanding of enterprise as epic plot.