Social and Symbolic Capital and Responsible Entrepreneurship: An Empirical Investigation of SME Narratives

Journal of Business Ethics 67 (3):287-304 (2006)
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This paper investigates links between social capital and symbolic capital and responsible entrepreneurship in the context of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The source of the primary data was 144 ‘Business Profiles’, written by the owner-managers of small businesses in application for a Small Business Awards competition in 2005. Included in each of these narratives were claims relating to the firms’ contributions to wider society, relationships with customers, employees and stakeholders. These narratives were coded and classified in a framework drawn from Nahapiet and Ghoshal’s (1998, Academy of Management Review 23(2), 242–266) categorisation of social capital. The analysis revealed a range of strategic orientations towards the development of social and symbolic capital, along a conceptual continuum ranging from being responsible for oneself to being responsible for others. Overall, the evidence demonstrates the significance of the power inherent in the social relations of SMEs as a force for ethical behaviour, and suggests that normative theories of the development of social capital may provide ‘competitive advantage’ through responsible behaviour for small business in the global economy.



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