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Rescripting the Danish-American dream: an exploration of the embeddedness of enterprise cultures and discourses.

Smith, Robert; Neergaard, Helle


Robert Smith

Helle Neergaard


It has been documented by numerous studies that countries differ in their rate of entrepreneurial activity. The reasons why this is so are usually attributed to structural issues. However, we argue that these variations have historical and cultural roots that may originate long ago and have become institutionalized through time. We report on desk research we carried out into an emerging renaissance relating to the Danish Enterprise Culture and cultural attitudes towards entrepreneurship in Denmark. This has been brought about by a new appreciation of the Danish-American Dream and has opened up a new discourse challenging the embeddedness of previously held negative attitudes towards entrepreneurs. We used a historical lens to examine the phenomenon of migration from the State of Denmark and concentrated on historical epochs which perhaps influenced why Danes traditionally held entrepreneurs in poor regard. In particular we focused on the socio-cultural factor of religion. The research method thus necessitated the use of a narrative based and social constructionist framework. The Danish aversion to boasting and to celebrating entrepreneurial attitudes and achievement was traced back to their humble roots as a nation of peasant farmers and to a fusion of religious beliefs which led to the formation of the Jantelaw. This paper explores the socio-cultural and historical factors influencing the perceived low level of entrepreneurial drive of Danes at home and abroad documenting how they are changing. This paper addresses the important issue of how history and culture influences the eagerness and earnestness of the entrepreneurial activity of a people and in turn shapes the entrepreneurial libido of a nation. Furthermore it demonstrates how a nation can rescript tired old narratives of enterprise which no longer accommodate their entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise cultures.


SMITH, R. and NEERGAARD, H. 2008. Rescripting the Danish-American dream: an exploration of the embeddedness of enterprise cultures and discourses. Journal of Asia entrepreneurship and sustainability [online], 4(2): selected papers from the proceedings of the 2008 Perspectives on entrepreneurship conference: cultures and contexts, June 2008, Aberdeen, UK, pages 61-86. Available from:

Journal Article Type Conference Paper
Conference Name 2008 Perspectives on entrepreneurship conference
Conference Location Aberdeen, UK
Start Date Jun 1, 2008
End Date Jun 30, 2008
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2008
Online Publication Date Oct 31, 2008
Publication Date Oct 31, 2008
Deposit Date Dec 1, 2009
Publicly Available Date Dec 1, 2009
Journal Journal of Asia entrepreneurship and sustainability
Print ISSN 1177-4541
Electronic ISSN 1176-8592
Publisher RossiSmith Academic Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 2
Pages 61-86
Keywords Denmark; America; Entrepreneurship; Enterprise cultures
Public URL
Publisher URL


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