International Conference Issues of Legitimacy: Entrepreneurial Culture, Corporate Responsibility and Urban Development



Entrepreneurial Culture, Corporate Responsibility and Urban Development

Naples, Italy, 4-8 September 2012

Convened by:

IUAES Commissions on Urban Anthropology and on Enterprise Anthropology

With the Collaboration of:

University of Naples Federico II; University of Naples 2; Media Group Il Denaro;

Brazilian Anthropological Association; Centro de Investigationes y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social (CIESAS), Mexico; China Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; China Commission on Urban Anthropology; Colegio de Etnólogos y Antropologos Sociales (CEAS), Mexico; Indian Anthropological Association; International Association of Southeast European Anthropology; IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Women.

General Outline

Over the last three decades, the crisis, and subsequent de-legitimization, of polarized political ideologies which had characterized international politics since the Second World War has apparently brought about the supremacy of economics over politics, and an acceleration of economic globalization. While it has became gradually clear that, cross-culturally, such supremacy and acceleration are not overarching phenomena and their predominance cannot be taken for granted, it has also become clear that in such a climate national policies struggle to take on board individual and corporate interests, demands from local communities and, most problematically, international regulations. To complicate matters further, all too often such international regulations prove to be inspired by concepts that are ambiguous, elusive, badly defined or impossible to apply, thus compounding on the perceived weak legitimacy of governance and the law in the broader society.

In today’s increasingly competitive global economic scenario, urban settings are a dominant form of associated life that encapsulate the socio-economic impact of increasingly significant international regulations and flows of capital and people. By and large, governance and the law have generally failed to meet constructively the challenge posed by the complexities and implications of this world-wide phenomenon, thus raising a critical problematic of both legitimacy and legitimation.

If our understanding of human beings in society is to share the responsibility of a complex view, we must take very seriously the interplay between personal morality and belief and civic responsibility, and between value and action. This requires, in the first place, an informed awareness of the vanity of the monist approach to the complex ways in which people merge social morality and personal choice into practices that observably recognize more than the self. We are invited to distinguish individual action that, motivated by selfish instrumentalism, has no civic value from individual action that fulfils personal interest on a practical and moral level. In this second case we must ask whether individual-oriented necessarily means individualistic. An astute answer to this question needs to steer well away from the cultural determinism of the conceptual opposition of the individual to society that forces the Hegelian concept of plurality — to be human is to be part of the human community, alone one is inexistent — into an ideological opposition between being in community (i.e., belonging to) and being cum community (i.e., being together with). This kind of strong perspectivism about morality and rational choice informs the dominant definition of membership of society and, classically, of non-membership, or indeed undeserving membership. It is based on a circular argument obnoxious to reason and observation — a begged question, in fact a succession of begged questions. Broadly recognizing that in today’s world individual action generally takes place in a context marked by imperfect competition, constraints and inequality, it would be difficult to argue that these conditions are pre-determined, through culture or formal location in terms of production and consumption; nor could they be described as fixed and self-perpetuating, may be with people’s unwitting complicity.

Anthropological analysis of diverse ethnographies has brought to light strong entrepreneurial cultures firmly rooted in the morality and ramifications, in practical life, of a strong continuous interaction between the material and the non material. A major task of this Conference will be to reflect on the significance, ramifications and impact, or potential impact, on the broader society of such an empirical sine qua non. The key role that the varied forms of individual and collective entrepreneurialism, and the  attendant culture and social impact, have to play in such a scenario is much too often frustrated by the aforementioned perspectivism. Eschewing confusion between individuality and individualism, anthropologists have highlighted key aspects of entrepreneurialism that point to the naivety of the economic maximization view. They have demonstrated the moral and cultural complexity of individual action, bringing out the social value of entrepreneurialism. They have also demonstrated how misplaced or instrumentally selective moralities in policy and in the production and enforcement of the law both play a critical role in such a failure, encourage exclusion, and are key in the widening gap between governance and the governed across the world. It is critical, however, to move further.

Through empirically based analyses, this Conference will explore these complex issues widely, in Western and non-Western settings, in relation to five broad themes. They are:

1.       Access to Credit, Entrepreneurialism and the Law: Problematic Issues for Enterprise;

2.       Cross Cultural and  Ethnic Business in Mixed Cities;

3.        Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Urban Development;

4.       Entrepreneurialism, Neo-Liberalism and Socio-Economic Policy;

5.       Women Entrepreneurs: Between Socio-Cultural Hindrance, Challenged Integration and Economic Success.

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