The tactical mimicry of social enterprise strategies: Acting ‘as if’ in the everyday life of third sector organizations

Using England as a paradigmatic case of the ‘enterprising up’ of the third sector through social enterprise policies and programs, this article sheds light on practitioners’ resistance as enacted through dramaturgical identification with government strategies. Drawing from a longitudinal qualitative research study, which is interpreted via Michel de Certeau’s theory of the prosaic of the everyday, we present the case study of Teak, a charitable regeneration company, to illustrate how its Chief Executive Liam ‘acted as’ a social entrepreneur in order to gain access to important resources. Specifically, we establish ‘tactical mimicry’ as a sensitizing concept to suggest that third sector practitioners’ public identification with the normative premises of ‘social enterprise’ is part of a parasitical engagement with governmental power geared toward appropriating public money. While tactical mimicry conforms to governmental strategies only in order to exploit them, its ultimate aim is to increase potential for collective agency outside the direct influence of power. The contribution we make is threefold: first, we extend the recent debate on ‘productive resistance’ by highlighting how ‘playing the game’ without changing existing relations of power can nevertheless produce largely favorable outcomes. Second, we suggest that recognition of the potentiality of tactical mimicry requires methodologies that pay attention to the spatial and temporal dynamics of resistance. Finally, we argue that explaining the normalizing power of ‘social enterprise’ without consideration of the non-discursive, mainly financial resources made available to those who identify with it, necessarily risks overlooking a crucial element of the dramaturgical dynamic of discourse.
What are you interested in?