Enhancing the spirit of entrepreneurship: African labor migrants returning from Israel.

Galia Sabar, Michal Pagis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary studies on return migration express a growing interest in the cultural and social dimensions of its economic development. In this article we aim to extend this interest by focusing on economic values returning migrants bring back with them to their countries of origin, captured in what we call the 'entrepreneurial spirit'. The article is based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork with Sub-Saharan African labor migrants both in Israel and after their return to their country of origin. Utilizing a Weberian perspective on the connection between values and economic action, we illustrate that even though African migrants work in menial jobs in Israel and very few acquire professional training, they come to utilize Israel as an informal space for the enhancement of a 'spirit of entrepreneurship'. This spirit contains three valuative transformations: a transformation concerning time (including a valuing of the future over the present); a transformation concerning individual action (replacing the primacy of community with a focus on individual flourishing); and a transformation in social relations (extending trust beyond friends and family to economic partners). These transformations are in line with economic values underlying a capitalist economic system. The expression of these value orientations acts as an important factor through which African countries have become increasingly interlinked and influenced by neoliberal culture. Yet, as the testimonies of African labor migrants reveal, local social structures reside side by side with this imported spirit of entrepreneurship. This hybridity may lead to increased opportunities, but also to feelings of estrangement and frustration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-280
Number of pages21
JournalMigration Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • ECONOMIC development research
  • LABOR mobility
  • capitalism
  • culture
  • Israel
  • return migration
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • values


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