Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Anthony Hatch

Second Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Third Advisor

Jung Ha Kim


Social enterprises have been promoted globally as alternative economic institutions to neoliberalism for the last few decades. In this study, I explored how social enterprises and the subjectivities of social entrepreneurs emerged as new discursive formations and institutional mechanisms in the neoliberal transformation of governance strategies in South Korea. Three broader questions guide this study. First, how have social enterprises emerged as a new discursive formation and a new institutional mechanism in neoliberal South Korean society? Second, how are the new subjectivities of social entrepreneurs produced in ways that are consistent with neoliberalism? Finally what are the implications of the emergence of social enterprises and the subjectivities of social entrepreneurs in terms of the neoliberal transformations of South Korean society? I situated these research questions within the theoretical frameworks of Neo-Marxist social theory and Foucauldian governmentality theory. In order to answer these questions, I analyzed newspaper articles, South Korean governmental policy reports, academic journal articles, and guidebooks for social entrepreneurs. I argue that the promotion of social enterprises operates as a new neoliberal government strategy that captures anti-neoliberal progressive social movements and shifts the responsibilities of the state for solving particularly problems of poverty and unemployment onto civil society and social activists. Central findings demonstrate that, despite the pervasiveness of the statements of progressive social movements—solidarity, public good, feminist empowerment, and social change—in the discourses of social enterprises, these statements are dominated by the logic and principles of the market regardless of the discourse producers’ political orientations. In forming the partnership with progressive social movement forces, state power mobilizes them into the mechanisms to promote social enterprises. Social activists are encouraged to be professional social entrepreneurs by arming themselves with an entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge of business administration, and a sense of responsibility for the disadvantaged. Theoretically, this study has broader implications in terms of its exploration of new neoliberal governance mechanisms inscribed in the promotion of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. This study also has important practical implications insofar as it reveals how Korean progressive leftists are unintentionally allied with neoliberalism, and thereby ironically reinforce its hegemony.