Worshipping with the Wealth Creationists: Co-Constructing Meaning and Purpose through Entrepreneurship Education
Gregory, Julie Caroline
A dynamic movement known as wealth creation education attracts many thousands of people seeking education for the vocation of an entrepreneur in the UK. Entrepreneurship education in these collectives includes venturing know-how but also co-constructs existential meaning and purpose for adherents, a role traditionally fulfilled by religion. This emergent sectarian movement is identified as wealth creationism. Led by charismatic entrepreneurs this newly identified research domain represents rich opportunities to study entrepreneurs in naturally arising settings, but has been neglected and understudied. While publicly subsidised educational support for small-business owners has suffered from low uptake, this study provides new knowledge about the kind of education that is engaged with in large numbers, despite being more expensive. This inquiry critically examines the attraction of these educational collectives and evaluates the social processes of eight wealth creation education providers in England. Teaching content and methods were also investigated. This qualitative study takes an interpreted approach through a social constructionism perspective. Using grounded theory methodology the providers were initially researched through participative observation in the educational settings followed by theoretically sampling data with various collection methods. Interdisciplinary theories, including the sociology of religion, accounted for findings, which were analysed at the meso-group level. The movement teaches entrepreneurship know-how and ‘mindset’ – ways of thinking and being. Insulating directives of behaviour and the construction of stigmatised out-groups maintain social boundaries. Employing similar narrative features and resources as religious sects, the socially constructed co-extensive nomos and cosmos privileges esoteric knowledge and is closely identified with modern Gnosticism. Participants do not acknowledge religious interpretations of their activities, yet three North American authors provide plausible canonical works that legitimise the movement. Wealth Creationists display entrepreneurial chauvinism, which equates employment with bondage, viewing the employed as slaves. Adherents choose educators with perceived entrepreneurial credibility to lead them on a purposeful mission for the type of knowledge that promises emancipation. This study is significant for both researchers of entrepreneurs and the sociology of religion. It offers participating entrepreneurs critical insights into the charismatic settings, which can be both enabling and disabling for venturing. This study has implications for academics engaged in outreach to small-business owners who may learn from the marketing tactics of these groups, although academics may still lack perceived credibility. Insights into business group formation will be of interest to business group researchers. A map of educational provision may interest researchers and educators of small and microbusiness owners, and those from the fields of entrepreneurial learning.
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