For several decades now, critical public health researchers have highlighted the deleterious effects that pursuing neoliberal policies can have on the ‘causes of the causes’ of poor health and upon growing health inequalities. This paper argues that the conceptual tools of Karl Polanyi can help lend particular insight into this issue. The specific example that this paper focuses upon is the ‘social enterprise’: a form of organisation that combines both social and business objectives. The paper explores, conceptually, whether social enterprises may have the potential to act as one component of a neo-Polanyian countermovement: helping to re-embed the economy back into society, and offering greater recognition for a more comprehensive and socially imbued concept of health. Importantly, this potential is critically examined in the context of neoliberal hegemony, where challenges to the status quo have regularly been met with assimilation, co-option and/or repression.
- social enterprise
- public health