The American Entrepreneurial Spirit

When Donald Trump ran for office in 2016, he offered the American public, and the rest of the world, a persona that is the product of a narrative which is as American as the proverbial apple pie: The rags-to riches story of someone who supposedly elevated themselves into a higher social position through hard work, savvy business strategies, and entrepreneurial acumen. Of course, the rags-to-riches narrative rarely holds up under scrutiny—and President Trump is simply one of many cases in point. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump embodies in a highly condensed and perhaps perplexing fashion a discursive formation which continues to confound non-Americans: The American entrepreneurial spirit.

By way of a concerted, semester-long group effort, our class aims to explore the multifaceted origins and complex development of the American entrepreneurial spirit within a decidedly interdisciplinary and intersectional framework. Students will learn about the latent, systemic tenets of the American entrepreneurial spirit (institutional, spiritual, political, popular cultural). By tapping into key historical documents and popular culture artifacts, and by contextualizing them vis-à-vis secondary scholarly sources, students will begin to comprehend the vast reach and cultural power of the American entrepreneurial spirit. By way of hands-on textual work, student will become intimately familiar with entrepreneurial contexts across a broad sweep of history as well as a number of profiles of American entrepreneurs.

Note: As you many university courses around the world, this undergrad seminar was turned into an online course from one week to the next--in our case we were notified in the evening of Thursday, March 19, that from Monday, March 23, onwards, classes would no longer be face-to-face.

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