Social enterprise as political pyramid scheme
What’s happened to Iain Duncan-Smith? He’s gone from being the blandest, most doggedly dull politician to displaying a level of charisma and chutzpah normally reserved for people with, er, charisma and chutzpah… Being given the role of head of the new Social Justice Policy Group has given him a new lease of life. I’ve heard him on the Today Programme [UK, BBC Radio 4] a few times now and each time he has been persuasive, articulate and eloquent in the face of the usual blunt questioning of Naughtie et al.
Social Enterprise was the subject on the programme today. Social Enterprise is the new "get the people to do what the state would otherwise do" but more efficiently, ‘naturally’ even. It seems to me that there’s not a lot ‘new’ about the idea of social enterprise. It’s essentially ‘capitalising’ on the informal social networks that people develop around a particular cause or issue. And the idea is that by unfettering these social networks, these people, from the regulatory air they live and choke on then we’d all follow their lead and be all innovative and enterprising too [This ignores thas fact that without the regulatory system we endure there’d be nothing to actually be enterprising about.]
But it’s that one not-so-ikky little word ‘capitalising’ that gets in the way of what would otherwise be a pleasant idea. Duncan-Smith talked of the economic ‘value’ of these networks. But you see as soon as you start to capitalise on people’s social networks you become no better than a pyramid scheme that
exploits capitalises on the informal networks of it’s lowest sales staff to feed the unenterprising folk further up the food chain, that is those of us that are for whatever reason not socially enterprising. It’s unsustainable. And while the analogy might be slightly harsh the principle remains; you can’t manipulate social enterprise for your own ends without somehow compromising the very conditions which enabled [or effected] the enterprise in the first place. And it’s not just the Tories, all the parties are trying to grab their inordinate right to the very concept, the very concept of ‘the social’ being inherently better at manging ‘the social’ than political types who can then all go home and work out how best to recruit the ordinary people to do the enterprising work.
I’m aware of becoming ever so slightly interested in Politics lately. Is it just me or are things actually more interesting? The fight for the middle ground isn’t ever going to be as powerful as the ideological battles of old but the nuances of the debate and the personalities seem to have something to offer. David Cameron has been a breath of fresh air, whetever your political inclinations.