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After the fall: developing a conceptual script-based model of shame in narratives of entrepreneurs in crisis!

Smith, Robert; McElwee, Gerard


Robert Smith

Gerard McElwee


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of shame in entrepreneurship. Extant research in relation to the entrepreneurial process has tended to concentrate upon the entrepreneur as hero and other positive aspects of the process. Consequently, the darker sides of the entrepreneurial personality and enterprise culture - such as the role of shame - remain a relatively under-researched facet of entrepreneurship theory. Despite this dearth of actual empirical studies, the negative behavioral aspects associated with the flawed 'hero model' of entrepreneurship are implicitly understood. These negative aspects include hubris, tragedy, narcissism, over-stretching, hedonism, personality disorders, status anxiety, self-centeredness, destructive relationships, alcoholism, suicide and - the most heinous of all - business failure. The paper considers the deeply social phenomenon of shame on the entrepreneur and his or her world by developing a conceptual model of shame. The social script of shame is analysed as found in novels and as found in newspaper reports of such epic tragedies, using a chosen methodology of narrative analysis. The world portrayed in narrative is very much a man's world in which shame is a personal construct, a penance to be endured or ended. In the process, a narrative script is developed. Shame is a deeply personal cognitive emotion that is easier to study in narrative than in person. From the stories of flawed heroes, we construct a holistic model of possible entrepreneurial trajectories that take cognisance of wellbeing issues and cover the unspoken events that occur after a fall from grace. But why should we expect the story to end with the entrepreneur in crisis staring into the abyss? Originality/value: Little previous work has been undertaken to explore entrepreneurial shame using both the entrepreneurship literature and narrative analysis.


SMITH, R. and MCELWEE, G. 2011. After the fall: developing a conceptual script-based model of shame in narratives of entrepreneurs in crisis! International journal of sociology and social policy [online], 31(1/2), pages 91-109. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2010
Online Publication Date Mar 1, 2011
Publication Date Feb 28, 2011
Deposit Date Nov 8, 2011
Publicly Available Date Nov 8, 2011
Journal International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Print ISSN 0144-333X
Electronic ISSN 1758-6720
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 1-2
Pages 91-109
Keywords Entrepreneurs; Narratives; Personality; Reasoning; Thinking
Public URL


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