Cognitive Emancipation: A Cognitive Approach to Entrepreneuring-as-Emancipation

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Through inductive theory building our study contributes to the growing body of work on emancipatory entrepreneurship by theorizing a process of cognitive emancipation. We use primary and secondary data including interviews with 27 entrepreneurs operating under various types of constraints, and 106 online interviews, articles, and biographies. Our findings offer a process model of cognitive emancipation and reveal its mechanisms. We suggest that gaining perceived control over oppressive forces can trigger a process of cognitive emancipation, which serves to overcome learned helplessness, thereby enabling identity reconstruction as an emancipatory mechanism. The newly constructed more entrepreneurial identity indicates a successful cognitive emancipation process and facilitates subsequent entrepreneuring decisions. These findings have substantial implications for donor organizations and policy makers undertaking economic empowerment initiatives.

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Emancipation Entrepreneurship