Topic: Practicing ‘intellectus’ in rural entrepreneurship
In this paper we turn to recent philosophical investigations to analyse stories from entrepreneurial women in rural areas. They describe a variety of social activities they are engaged in to develop their companies, products and services, but also the local community, and society. These engagements are often described in passing, and not directly connected to the company according to conventional goal-oriented logic. Rather, they are seen as taken for granted– they are just done, and someone needs to do them. They concern care for others – for the children in the community, the elderly, the infrastructure, the sustainability of the industry etc. They are neither described as sacrifice, nor as benevolence, as is often emphasized in social entrepreneurship stories. Rather, these engagements signal something else. We argue that they illustrate a reflective practice of entrepreneurship, normally suppressed by an economic logic and described as play, passion and creativity in the sociologically inspired entrepreneurship literature.
To better understand the role of reflexive practices in rural entrepreneurship, we turn to philosopher Jonna Bornemark who describes how humans in modern societies have become ‘prisoners’ of the measurable economic rationality (‘ratio’). With inspiration from the pre-renaissance philosopher, Nicholas Cusanus (1401-1464), she describes how the calculating ‘ratio’ has taken precedence over ‘intellectus’. Economic rationality (ratio) describes how we turn to rules of abstractions and generalization. Bornemark’s argument is that too much of ratio makes us loose contact with ourselves, others and the specific situation in a way that disables us to develop judgment. Instead we rely on external parameters to objectively guide our action. Practices built on intellectus, on the contrary, emphasize the subjective, emotional, temporary and our ability to ‘not know’, but to learn to cope with insecurity, instability, anxiety and find ways to act in such terrains. Bornemark’s point is that ratio and intellectus practices are interdependent – both are needed. But, in modern societies intellectus has been suppressed, overlooked and seen as state of lack of better knowledge.
But, what if intellectus is a practice that is nurtured in rural contexts? A practice that not only makes it possible for rural areas to survive and thrive, but which we can learn from in the contemporary calls to change global society in a more thoughtful direction. By analyzing stories from 35 women pursuing different businesses and social activities, we set eyes at the question of if, and how, intellectus is practiced by rural entrepreneurial women.