Reboot and repeat: Political entrepreneurship and the Icelandic Pirate Party

abstract

This paper discusses the ways in which the Icelandic Pirate Party conducts political entrepreneurship. It was developed as an inductive, mainly interview-based, study of what is arguably one of the pirate movement’s most successful and sustainable parties. The paper shows how the party’s repetitive engagement with its Core Policy has generated creativity and entrepreneurship. That Core Policy consists mainly of statements developed on the back of liberal democratic ideology, which has its roots in the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, intensified by a desire to change politics and in anticipation of a different future, encounters with the Core Policy have become a way of creating party political differences. The process also involves the party’s radically horizontal, heterogeneous and ambiguous approach to organising itself. This enquiry was developed against the backdrop of Deleuze’s ideas, which provide fertile conceptualisations concerning emergence, creativity and politics. Finally, following a Deleuzian-influenced analysis of the case, insights are developed concerning creativity in political entrepreneurship.

Introduction

The [Core Policy] is written as a series of statements so it is easy to quote them. (Icelandic Pirate Party website)

In his international bestseller 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari criticises politicians for failing to facilitate discussions and create policies that can help us navigate into the future. Harari is not alone in making that point. In the face of technological progress, frequently referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and diverse global challenges, the future appears radically different from the present. Despite that, today’s dominant politics often looks more to the past than the future (see, for example, slogans used in the 2016 US presidential election – ‘make America great again’ – and the UK Brexit referendum – ‘take back control of our country’).

The role of political parties is central to Western liberal democratic politics and society, and, if societies are changing in radical ways, arguably, much will depend on the political ability to facilitate and lead such change within a democratic framework. It has also been argued that political parties, broadly speaking, are experiencing a terminal crisis, as expressed, for instance, in declining membership and voter turnouts (see discussion in Husted et al., 2018). It is against that backdrop and the local context, where trust in the political system has diminished significantly over the past two decades[1], that this paper considers the case of the Icelandic Pirate Party, primarily by conducting a series of interviews with party members. The paper contributes to political entrepreneurship studies by theorising ways in which the Pirate Party develops its politics and organises itself.

The study is informed by a strand of thought on entrepreneurship and process. There, entrepreneurship sits in a broad societal context and is studied across multiple social spheres and in a variety of organisations, including political ones (Down, 2013; Hjorth, 2012a; Hjorth et al., 2008; Lindgren and Packendorff, 2009; Steyaert and Katz, 2004). This strand of thought encompasses a research sensitivity for creativity, local context and processes, with cross-disciplinary approaches (e.g. Hjorth et al., 2015; Popp and Holt, 2013; Shah and Tripsas, 2007; Steyaert, 2007; Styhre, 2007).

The term ‘political entrepreneurship’ is usually attributed to Robert Dahl’s Who Governs, published in 1961. Even before Dahl, however, entrepreneurship in politics had been recognised, for example, by Weber and by Schumpeter (Qvortrup, 2007; Sigurdarson, 2016). Research interest in entrepreneurship in politics has grown in recent years, including studies of policy processes, political actors and institutions that break the mould in one way or another (Petridou et al., 2015). Although there are some notable exceptions (e.g. Erlingsson, 2008; Helmit, 2001; Nownes and Neeley, 1996; Strom, 1990), few studies address entrepreneurship in political parties, with researchers paying even less attention to the ‘inner life’ of political parties (Husted et al., 2018: 2).

Entrepreneurship is commonly focused on the economy and markets (e.g. ownership, profit and customer). Thus, some of its core concepts lose significance and clarity when applied to politics (cf. Christopoulos, 2006; Sheingate, 2003; Wohlgemuth, 2000). The aforementioned processual strand of entrepreneurship helps to overcome such limitations by placing entrepreneurship in a broader social context. Furthermore, in this study, thinking process and entrepreneurship involves engagement with the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. His ideas are considered to be radically processual, steeped in an ontology of everything continuously emerging (May, 2005; Steyaert, 2007), and they have influenced studies of both organisations and entrepreneurship in various ways (e.g. Hjorth, 2012b, 2015; Linstead and Thanem, 2007; Sørensen, 2006; Styhre, 2007; Thanem, 2004). The slow but sure proliferation of his ideas into such fields has arguably been influenced by his perpetual development of new concepts and interest in expressions of dynamism, complexity and instability, as opposed to stable and neatly defined concepts and theories (Colebrook, 2002; Kristensen et al., 2014).

Beyond an ontology of emergence or process, politics permeates Deleuze’s thinking, especially his work with Félix Guattari (cf. Deleuze and Guattari, 2000,2008; Patton, 2000). Deleuze and Guattari do not engage directly with normative political theory. Instead, they attend to how politics and its institutions emerge, change and transform. That produces an idiosyncratic terminology, not easily mapped in terms of common political concepts, but which has the benefit of viewing politics as involving creativity and entrepreneurial practice. It is for that reason that such terminology imbues this enquiry.  

A third attribute of Deleuzian thinking of value for this study is a comprehension of ideology as creating stability and conformity in politics, while also identifying a destabilising potentiality of idea-statements, or slogans. As we will see, that connects with how the Icelandic Pirate Party interacts with and unfolds its basic political ideas, explicitly stated in the party’s, so-called, Core Policy, which is strongly influenced by the fundamental ideas of the Enlightenment and liberalism.     

Drawing on what has already been mentioned concerning political entrepreneurship and process thinking, this study takes political entrepreneurship to involve creative practices which are intertwined with the ability to evoke, facilitate and actualise new ideas and actions. Developed through engagement with an empirical case, this paper presents novel and valuable insights into political entrepreneurship and its practices. Guiding the enquiry is the overarching question: How does the Icelandic Pirate Party’s approach to its so-called Core Policy serve as a catalyst for creativity in politics?

The remainder of the paper is presented in five main sections. The first provides the empirical background concerning the Pirate Party and Icelandic politics. The second introduces the concept of ‘political entrepreneurship’, with an emphasis on creativity, before moving on to discuss selected ideas and concepts concerning emergence, creativity and politics in the Deleuze and Guattari philosophy. The third section outlines the method of enquiry, with the fourth providing an analytical account or theorising of the case, developed against the backdrop of Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas. The theorising conveys a process of repetitive engagement with the party’s Core Policy, infused by desire and facilitated by its way of organising. Such encounters are found to be central to understanding the party’s way of developing creative ideas and doing political entrepreneurship. The final section of the paper discusses the implications of the insights, as developed in the analytical account, on creativity in the political entrepreneurship context.

The Icelandic Pirate Party: Not only nerds and copyright

The idea of a new party] emerges in a political landscape where the root-fast political elite has sacrificed its and the voters’ ideals on an altar of corruption. (Birgitta Jónsdóttir, founder of the Icelandic Pirate Party, Morgunblaðið, 18 July 2012)

The Icelandic Pirate Party has been influential in Icelandic politics since its establishment in November 2012. The party takes its name from the pirate movement, which first emerged as a political party in Sweden in January 2006 as a response to the tightening of government policies concerning online copyright and file-sharing. The name was a reference to The Pirate Bay, a popular file-sharing platform (Erlingsson and Persson, 2011), which prompted initial discussions about the need for a political movement focused on copyright and individual privacy. Burkart (2014) stated that such parties were operating in 56 countries and the Pirate Party International (PPI) reported members from 37 countries in 2020.[2] [3]

As the pirate movement has developed, so too has its focus. The common emphasis amongst today’s pirate parties is on freedom of information, grounded in the conviction that current copyright laws harm the flow of information, digital freedom and progress. Second, pirate parties commonly strive for protection of the personal sphere, both online and offline, and in line with this is the movement’s view that government surveillance has limited legitimacy (Fredriksson, 2014; Otjes, 2020). A third commonality is concern regarding the limitations of representative democracy, including lack of transparency and being too far removed from citizens’ influence. That has led various pirate parties to advocate for more direct modes of democracy (Cammaerts, 2015).

Despite the Pirates’ substantial international growth, they followed a rocky road to election success, which has been difficult to sustain (Otjes, 2020). At the time of writing, only three pirate parties have won seats in national parliaments – in the Czech Republic, Luxemburg and Iceland. The Icelandic Pirates have done that more often than any other pirate party, with seats won in three elections. By that yardstick, the Icelandic party can be considered the most successful of the pirate parties.[4] The Icelandic Pirates’ establishment and subsequent success must be considered in the context of Iceland’s systemic economic collapse in late 2008. A severe economic depression and social unrest resulted. It was widely considered that the political system and the state institutions had failed to react appropriately to Icelandic banks’ reckless behaviour (Hreinsson et al., 2010). Trust in politicians and the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, plummeted, with the social unrest culminating in what is known as the ‘Cutlery Revolution’. New political movements soon began to appear. One of the most vocal activists at the time was the poet and web designer Birgitta Jónsdóttir. By 2009, she had been elected to Iceland’s parliament, having won a seat for a new party, the Citizens’ Movement. Jónsdóttir later became internationally renowned for her involvement with WikiLeaks.[5] In 2012, she left her former political colleagues to establish the Icelandic Pirate Party.

We decided at an IMMI board meeting to create the Pirates, because we felt the understanding of technology, innovation and just human rights in this digital world we were entering was so limited. (Interview with Jónsdóttir)[6]

In the first elections in which the party ran, in 2013, it received 5.3% of the votes and three seats in the Icelandic parliament. There is a consensus, both generally and amongst the interviewees, that such a result could not have happened without Jónsdóttir’s popularity. Other candidates were not well known to the typical voter at the time. The party now has a dedicated following and has taken part in three national elections, with its best performance being a 14.5% share of the votes.[7] Through that success, the Icelandic Pirates have become something of a poster child for the international pirate movement.

Despite that popularity with the international movement, the Icelandic Pirates run their organisation very independently. They discontinued their PPI membership in May 2015. From the very beginning, the party has taken part in politics at various levels, with its intention always being to develop policies in all significant areas of (inter)national and local politics. The party has influenced Icelandic politics in various ways, thereby providing indications for how the pirate movement can become an influential political actor across a wide range of areas (Fredriksson, 2016). For instance, the party has significantly influenced Iceland’s legal revision processes concerning freedom of speech, information and media, with the ambitions of creating international ‘best practices’ and making Iceland a haven for free speech (Beyer, 2014). Furthermore, the party’s consistent demand for a new national constitution has garnered significant public support. The Pirates are adamant about changing the way politics operates in Iceland and fight not to fall onto the conventional ‘political train tracks’ (interview with Palsson). In many ways, the party appears to be succeeding in that aim, as it continues to act in ways perceived as surprising and unpredictable by other politicians and the media.

Political entrepreneurship and Deleuze’s political thinking

Max Weber (1978: 1403) observed a significant affinity between politicians and entrepreneurs, claiming that their performances possess a ‘moving spirit’ and a ‘directing mind’. Schumpeter (Schumpeter, 1942) – a political theorist as much as an economist – also likened the characteristics of a politician to those of an entrepreneur. Neither Weber nor Schumpeter used the term ‘political entrepreneurship’, but they identified parallels between entrepreneurship movements in politics, organisations and the economy (e.g. McCaffrey and Salerno, 2011; Sheingate, 2003; Sigurdarson, 2016).

Schumpeter’s emphasis on entrepreneurship as a creative force for movement and progress makes him particularly interesting for this enquiry. He famously coined the term ‘creative destruction’ to reflect a primary movement of entrepreneurship, innovation and growth (Schumpeter, 1942). Creative destruction entails suggesting radically new products or services that can escape the existing ordering of a market moving towards equilibrium, which eliminates entrepreneurial profits. The entrepreneurial creativity brings about the destruction of the existing order and generates movement towards a new order. Such movement from one order to another reflects Schumpeter’s notion of creativity at the heart of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter (1934: 93) also offered insights into what drives and qualifies creative entrepreneurial action, writing about entrepreneurs as being motivated by ‘the joy of creating, of getting things done, or simply of exercising one's energy and ingenuity’. In other words, for Schumpeter, entrepreneurship involves engaging in joyful activities and a desire to add to the world.

Many of entrepreneurship’s other core concepts focus on the economy and markets (e.g. ownership, profit and customer), but they tend to lose their clarity or provide an insufficiently narrow view when it comes to understanding entrepreneurial practices or how change comes about in politics (e.g. Christopoulos, 2006; Sheingate, 2003; Wohlgemuth, 2000). For instance, democratic politics tends to require complex coalitions; ownership of resources is commonly not private; and monetary profits do not have the same relevance in politics as in a market economy (McCaffrey and Salerno, 2011). That arguably increases the complexity of studying entrepreneurship in politics and indicates the urgent need for studying political entrepreneurship through multiple lenses and at multiple places (e.g. O’Brien, 2019; Petridou et al., 2015; Yu, 2001).

In a comprehensive review of political entrepreneurship studies focusing on political institutions’ policy-change processes (e.g. Kingdon, 1984; Mintrom, 2000; O’Brien, 2019; Roberts and King, 1991; Schneider et al., 1995; Sheingate, 2003), Petridou et al. (2015) identified a few shared attributes. Those included a general interest in entrepreneurship as a set of behaviours or practices, rather than focusing on personalities, and a shared concern with creativity in doing political entrepreneurship (e.g. McCaffrey and Salerno, 2011; Sheingate, 2003; Wohlgemuth, 2000). This study shares those attributes, with its interest in political entrepreneurship as creative practice.

For Roberts (Roberts, 2000; Roberts and King, 1991), creative and intellectual activity is a point of departure for doing political entrepreneurship. Accordingly, entrepreneurial creativity involves ideas generation where, for instance, models and ideas from other policy domains are applied. Roberts also sees creativity in politics as involving criticism, or the definition of a problem, in relation to a perceived performance gap, followed by identification of alternative solutions. Sheingate (2003) discussed creativity in political entrepreneurship with reference to both Schumpeter and Kirzner (1973). He identified creative activity in politics in terms of, first, exploitation of instability. As such, instability will often make it easier to identify the cracks in the current order and expose the political sphere to new opportunities. Second, Sheingate views creativity in terms of recombining known elements (e.g. problems, assets and policies), which connects directly to Schumpeter’s idea of creativity emerging endogenously from the current order. Third, creativity involves the ability to consolidate innovations – for instance, by creating new jurisdictions or boundaries that delineate the scope of further actions.

A considerable body of literature on public organising argues for organisational creativity by means of horizontal and organic structures (Crouch, 2005; Ezzamel and Reed, 2008; Rhodes, 1997; Thompson, 2003). The creative advantages of horizontality are, for instance, emphasised by the influential school of New Public Management, perhaps most famously represented in Osborne and Gaebler’s (1992) book, Reinventing government. An overarching goal of that school is to limit the effects of large hierarchies and bureaucracy on public institutions, and instead create more independent agencies to enhance entrepreneurial abilities (Gay, 2000). In political entrepreneurship studies have also found entrepreneurial advantages in horizontal organising. For instance, Oakerson and Parks (1999) found that non-hierarchical and polycentric arrangements provide fertile ground for political entrepreneurship. Sheingate (2003) adopted a slightly different approach by emphasising complexity as an important attribute of the institutional and organisational environment for political entrepreneurship. He then described three characteristics of complexity: (a) uncertainty; (b) heterogeneity of components, which can become resources for creative acts; and (c) ambiguity, or the inability to comprehend the character of components and their relationship to one another. Ambiguity, in his sense, also applies to organisational boundaries and areas of authority.

Deleuze: Politics, repetition and new differences

This enquiry into creativity in political entrepreneurship, as expressed in the case of the Icelandic Pirate Party, is infused by the process thinking of Gilles Deleuze and his collaborator, Félix Guattari. This section briefly introduces their philosophical project and selected concepts, but Deluze and Guattari hardly ever provide readers with simple definitions. Rather, they develop concepts for given contexts, then revisit and rethink those concepts. Consequently, the following discussion offers more conceptual context than would be needed for a less idiosyncratic and interconnected terrain of ideas. The reward for doing so, however, involves a way to develop an understanding of entrepreneurship, moving beyond an economic context to connect with politics as a space with immanent capacity for rupture and novelty.

A Schumpeterian understanding of entrepreneurship involves creativity and introducing something new to the world. As mentioned, Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical project draws attention to movements, ruptures and new creations – in other words, how something comes into being and its capacity to become something different (Helin et al, 2014). In that way, their thinking is guided by curiosity about how novelty can emerge from order and stability; or to use their own terminology, they find new differences emerging from repetition (repetitive movements) and the making of new connections (Deleuze, 1994). In that vein, they argue that everything emerges and functions through connections. For example, we can only speak of a body because of how cells, organs and so forth are connected. Even a bicycle has no intrinsic purpose. It only becomes a bicycle when it connects with a body (and person-becoming-cyclist).

Employing Bergson’s ideas of ‘virtual’ and ‘actual’, Deleuze identifies two aspects of reality. We experience the actual as that which exists in the world, but reality also consists of a virtuality that is equally real, even though it lacks actuality. May (2005) illustrated that with an image of Japanese origami. A piece of paper has many virtual expressions through origami. It can be folded and unfolded into different arrangements, which, at that moment, become actual. Hence, each different origami arrangement is an actualised expression of the paper, coming into being in a process of folding and unfolding. It is still only one of many potential expressions of the paper. The actualised expression is neither a copy of an original, nor is it the paper itself. Deleuze would argue that the paper’s reality is equal to any potential expression of the paper, and that reality as virtuality can be actualised at any given moment. Correspondingly, immanent to every event is the world’s potential to unfold and actualise in ways radically different from its current state. Although any repetition, as an event, may produce sameness or maintain the status quo (e.g. of structures, routines and habits), it also has the potential to allow virtual differences to emerge and become actual. At any time, a repetition may rupture the current order, thereby introducing new differences that become actual with different movements and speeds or some imagined newness (Hjorth, 2015). It is through repetition that the past moves itself into a different future (Deleuze, 1994).

In the context of post-war Western party politics, there have been decades of relatively stable institutional landscapes. Political entrepreneurship needs to be understood as involving activities creating new differences in such an environment. Deleuze and Guattari (2008) considered that in terms of what they call ‘micropolitics’, with a distinct interest in how politics changes and transforms. That is different from the liberal interest in government legitimacy, the state and political order (ibid.), or what Deleuze and Guattari call ‘molar politics’, referring to a sociopolitical territory of rigid and arborescent lines and structures, of clear segments and ideologies. Representations of molar politics involve the binary and hierarchical categorisation of class, gender, political parties and nations. Molar politics rigidly orders the flow of life and its desires (Windsor, 2015). The modern state gives priority to molar politics, creating rigid compartments that strive to eliminate or absorb cracks and displacements. Thus, molar politics involves movement and it looks for performance gaps, which it addresses by defining them within the already established segments of power relations and institutions. 

Deleuze and Guattari (2008) took issue with the representation of political change in terms of Hegelian dialectics and revolutionary outbursts. Instead, they proposed that change is a micropolitical activity emerging in and through local events and encounters. It is an activity that plays out within the ordered terrain of (molar) established institutions, but seeps through the cracks and along different paths from what has been predefined (Patton, 2000: 7). In other words, micropolitics accounts for a flow of movements, affects and passions operating alongside or below the realm of representative politics ‘tout court’ (Patton, 2005). Such movements are not programmatic, however, nor do they impose global solutions (Massumi, 2015). They are local experiments, with their exact outcomes and implications unknown. It is in these encounters that creativity repetitively emerges as new differences in politics.

In addition to the notion of micropolitics informing an understanding of repetition as a creative process in politics, this discussion continues with insights into how Deleuze and Guattari think of desire as an ability to actualise new differences and ideology, which ossifies, but also disrupts, politics.

Desire

Deleuze develops the concept of desire throughout his authorship, but it emerges most prominently in his engagement with Spinoza and Nietzsche (Deleuze, 1983; 1988). In Spinoza, Deleuze finds desire pertaining to the dual power of a body (e.g. a human body, an organisation or a thing) to be affected – receptivity – and to create affects – act with spontaneity and novelty. Desire is active in local events and encounters. It is not based on a lack of something, rather, it is productive, an enquiry into new becomings (Colebrook, 2002: 62). It is a desire to add to the world, to create new connections (momentary beings) between movements, bodies and things. Desire is a longing for something more than what is already actual (Hjorth and Holt, 2014). It pertains to an openness for new encounters and different affects. A proactive desire finds joy in connecting with that with which it can find agreement (Deleuze, 2013). Joyful connections increase one’s power, which is to be understood as the ability to be affected and act to create affects.

Deleuze’s desire concept corresponds to Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’, which has affirmative and negative expressions. The negative will to power allies itself with the reactive and repetitive forces of sameness, stability and rest (Massumi, 2015: 102). The affirmative will to power allies itself with active forces of creation and difference. The affirming will, or desire, moves with joy into different speeds and intensities, new combinations and organisations. The negative will to power cuts off active forces from what they can become (Deleuze, 1983). That can also be spoken of as coding or steering desire towards sanctioned interests (Hjorth, 2014) – for instance, a political party steering the desires of its members towards the sanctioned interests of the party. Many organisations support the tendency of those in power – having done well abiding by the rules of the existing order – to stop new ideas and behaviour, but an entrepreneurial political party needs to be receptive to its members’ desire to affirm and actualise new ideas – to experiment with what the party can become (Husted, 2020). Such a party should retain its ‘capacity for newness and avoid ossification into tightly governed patterns or relationships’ (Hjorth, 2014: 105).

Ideology and order

Ideology is a central attribute of political parties through which they identify and position themselves (Husted, 2020). For Deleuze and Guattari (2008), ideology involves a moralisation of politics and the coding of desire into sanctioned interests (Windsor, 2015). It functions and is disseminated through local events and encounters. To understand that better, Deleuze-Guattarian ideas about language as an indirect discourse pertaining to a ‘collective assemblage of enunciations’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2008: 97) are of note. The collective assemblage of enunciations accounts for language’s impersonal and social nature, and is a form of pragmatics ordering life and living. It implicates itself as a pattern of statements and actions (Porter, 2010). Such statements are ‘order words’. Accordingly, ‘[l]anguage is not made to be believed but to be obeyed, and [to] compel obedience’ (Deleuze and Guattari (1988: 76) cited in Porter, 2010). The order words of a hegemonic ideology like liberalism are transmitted as ‘clichés’ – a kind of hearsay that flows through and orders society and politics. Clichés pertain to reactive forces, as they stabilise and steer utterances, thought and actions. People incorporate that ordering. It speaks in and through us. It is repeated without experience or serious thought (e.g. ‘yes, of course we are all individuals’; ‘yes, of course we all have equal rights’). Clearly, liberal democracy is only one possible assemblage of ideas, but it is hegemonic and a ready-made set of ideas which speaks in and through Western democracies’ political parties (May, 2005). Thus, there is no blank canvas for a political party, as the order of the hegemonic ideology is already there, positioning all parties on a left / right axis in accordance with its clichés.

The pragmatics of order words is not limited to circulating ideological clichés; their spell be broken. Slogans are also statements, but their ability is to intensify a situation and affect it differently from how a cliché would. A slogan does not demand obedience. It seeks to be affirmed and catalysed into a new idea or action. A slogan is instantaneous, rich in its ‘perlocutionary effect’ (Porter, 2010: 239–40). It distinguishes itself against a background to which it can give new shape. A slogan does not depend on opposing something. Its quality involves a new trajectory for thought and action. A slogan is not universal in its claim or effect, but local. In A thousand plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari (2008: 3) provide numerous slogans, including ‘[t]here is no ideology and never has been’. As a slogan, that is not a claim of an illusionary space outside of any ideology, as that in itself would be ideological (Husted, 2020). Instead, it is a challenge posed to a desire able to find joy in the slogan and think new thoughts.

In closing this overview, the discussion of ideology and order words at the level of politics brings us back to the concepts of repetition, new differences and desire. A repetition from the ordered place has no guarantee that it will return the same order, especially when it involves a desire seeking to affirm and actualise new differences (Colebrook, 2002: 8). Without desire’s intensification, however, repetition is reactive and likely to conform to the established order.[8] Slogans and sloganising statements are a way of seeking the intensification of desires to create new differences.

Method

Process thinking and theorising has methodological implications. Drawing on discussions in organisation and entrepreneurship studies (e.g. Helin et al., 2014; Langley, 2007), and non-representational theory (e.g. Beyes and Steyaert, 2012; Steyaert, 2012), perception and theorising is guided by an attention to local situations and movements of change and rupture. A close relationship exists between the researcher and the researched, asking ‘how’ rather than ‘why’, and looking to verbs before nouns (Sigurdarson, 2016; Weick, 1979). There are no universally true representations of this (messy) world (Law, 2004). Correspondingly, analysis becomes a matter of performativity and writing, a method of enquiry (Richardson, 2000; Steyaert, 2012). That involves exploring potentialities in encounters between theory and data to catalyse thought (Steyaert, 2012).

This enquiry is based on empirical material from primary and secondary sources. Fourteen in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted between early 2018 and autumn 2019 (Brinkmann and Kvale, 2014). Each lasted around one hour on average, with the conversations recorded and transcribed. The interviews were designed to follow Spradley’s (1979) guidance on ethnographic interviewing, involving explicit purpose and transparency, and combining descriptive, structural and contrasting questions. Interviewees were asked questions aimed at eliciting their own experiences and views concerning party organisation and processes, especially with regard to policy development and decision-making. They were also asked questions concerning specific events, including conflicts and successes. Interviews were coded using NVivo, first according to a few predefined categories, then more codes were developed inductively based on responses and identified overlaps.

In the analytical process, the concepts of desire and ideology became significant for the paper. Desire developed connections to comments regarding, for instance, the interviewees’ passions, wants and willingness to experiment. Correspondingly, the concept of ideology developed connections to comments describing members, the party’s political ideas and ideology. That included the party’s Core Policy, international pirate policies, the party’s national policies and approach to organising its political work. Various documents were also used to support this work.

As indicated, using a process approach already implies an interest in how a political party develops in terms of movements, changes and ruptures. Thus, this study and the interviews were aimed at gaining an in-depth longitudinal view of the young party evolving, both politically and as an organisation. Hence, it was deemed important to interview people with considerable experience and knowledge of the party, including its reasons for being, and how its political ideas and practices have emerged. Many, but not all, of the interviewees had been able to exert significant influence on the party and how it has developed in recent years. Most also had experience of being ‘normal’ members, with two no longer active in the party. Nevertheless, this rationale for selecting interviewees tilts the enquiry towards the views of members with stakes and influence, and towards the party’s involvement in parliamentary politics.

For a brief overview, the interviewees included two individuals who were, or had been, administrative directors of the party; six were, or had been, members or deputy members of the national parliament (MPs); and one interviewee represented the party in the capital’s City Council. Furthermore, at least three interviewees had been on the party’s, so-called, Executive Council and five were amongst the founding members. Additional information about individual interviewees is provided for those quoted directly in this paper, using pseudonyms.

Other sources of information were reviewed, including social media – in particular, relevant Facebook groups and the party’s own online platform. Discussions on those platforms were reviewed both broadly and to gain knowledge on specific issues of interest. Video streaming and recordings of events, media news and interviews, internal party documents, the party’s rules and blog posts were all significant data sources. In that respect, it was particularly helpful that the Pirate Party makes much of its activities and decision-making publicly available. In this paper, such sources are mainly used to support and validate insights developed or tested in the interviews.

Repetition of established ideas as a sloganising process in the Pirate Party

This section discusses entrepreneurial activities in the Icelandic Pirate Party, as they involve creating new political differences in national party politics. Thinking and theorising about political entrepreneurship in terms of creativity and new differences is already implicated in Schumpeter’s theory, but a Deleuze-Guattarian reading of this empirical case offers new insights into the political context. The first two parts of what follows discuss how the party repetitively, and with intensity, encounters liberal democratic ideology. The last part discusses how the approach to organising the party facilitates such encounters.

Repetition and liberal clichés

I was concerned that if we entered as a conventional Pirate Party, [like those] in Sweden, Germany and … other places, we’d drown in noise. (Interview with Loftsson)

The Icelandic Pirate Party’s Core Policy is central to the party’s organisational and decision-making processes. An important motivation for writing that policy was to ensure that the party’s interests would not be restricted to the topics for which the pirate movement was best known.

[The Core Policy] is basically a philosophical manifesto of our values. It evolves around, first and foremost, civil rights and some basic issues. So yes, it was this idea that we wouldn’t get stuck in being a one-issue party. (Interview with Loftsson)

The Core Policy, spelled out on the party’s website, has six pillars.[9] The first emphasises the importance of critical thinking and informed policy- and decision-making. Accordingly, new ideas should be approached without respect to who is promoting them, with decisions always open to revision – for instance, when new information become available. The second pillar focuses on the strengthening and protection of civil rights pertaining to equality, freedom of speech and action. The third relates to the right to privacy and defending the less powerful from abuse by the more powerful. The fourth covers transparency and responsibility, especially regarding the state and powerful social actors. The fifth pillar is the freedom to collect and share information, and to express oneself. Finally, the Core Policy advocates direct democracy and the right to self-determination; in other words, people have the right to access decision-making processes concerning their own affairs, with that right realised through direct democracy and low centralisation of power.

For all general purposes, the Core Policy spells out ideas fundamental to the Enlightenment, as well as the liberal philosophy and the human rights to which it gave rise. At its heart is the assumption that power has to come from the individual, who then becomes a core entity and a building block of any society. It is the same assumption that transcends liberal thought from Thomas Hobbes and John Lock to John Rawls and Robert Nozick (May, 2005). The Pirates’ Core Policy reflects the basic question those thinkers addressed and can be stated as: Under what conditions should individuals allow themselves to be governed? The various answers created the ideological framing which still speaks in and through Western politics (cf. Deleuze and Guattari, 2008). Correspondingly, the Core Policy states a belief in individual freedom and rights, human reasoning and critical thinking. It also contains a Weberian spirit emphasising traceability and responsibility (Weber, 1978). Overall, the party’s Core Policy conveys a widely accepted assemblage of sociopolitical ideas, and what Deleuze and Guattari (2008) would call a ‘collective assemblage of enunciations’ belonging to liberal democracy. In other words, it explicitly spells out liberal order words. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Core Policy remains largely undisputed within the party.

The Core Policy is essential to the party’s policy development. For instance, when developing a new policy, it must be explicitly anchored in the Core Policy to gain legitimacy. It is of no less importance in issues not already covered in current policy. Jónsdóttir talked about how vital the Core Policy was during the first years of the party, when it lacked clear policies in several areas.

I just cannot believe when I read this political programme of ours that we made it into parliament. Wonderful! […] We made all decisions based on the Core Policy. It was easy to use it as a template for decision-making. (Interview with Jónsdóttir)

The Core Policy is still repeatedly visited as a ‘template for decision-making’. Mr Halldorsson, an MP, and Ms Sanders, a deputy MP, explained that the Core Policy is continuously brought up in political discussions and within the group of MPs. Grímsson, an MP, explained how the Core Policy has helped to prioritise what the party chooses to focus on, as well as whether and how to negotiate in the parliament. Citing Peter Drucker, Grímsson adds that the Core Policy also has a role in ensuring the party’s organisational sustainability, by making it possible to demonstrate success by comparing party activities and results to the Core Policy.

When taking stock, the Pirate Party actively and frequently brings the Core Policy into various discussions at the policy and organisation levels. It is depicted as the party’s ‘anchor’, but, as a set of ideas or statements, the Core Policy is neither inherently radical nor novel. In that sense, it is comprised of the very clichés that already order national politics and are, therefore, already reactively embodied by other political parties in their utterances and stable practices. Nevertheless, the Core Policy is active in encounters where the Pirate Party is able to create new political differences and do entrepreneurship in Icelandic politics. We also know from Deleuze and Guattari that new differences can emerge from a repetition of order and sanctioned ideas, when statements become slogans, involving encounters with a desire to spontaneously affirm new affects that can catalyse new ideas and actions.

The Core Policy and moments of repetition

As mentioned, the existence of the Core Policy was motivated by the intention to take part in politics broadly and to develop policy for a variety of issues. Interviewees argued that the Core Policy distinguished the party from other local political parties and was essential for the party’s goal of changing politics. They also acknowledged that the Core Policy’s distinguishing effect was not obvious from a simple reading of its statements, but explained that there was more to it than that.

If you read the Core Policy based on current politics, it doesn’t necessarily tell you the same as if you understand the background, regarding the democratic conversation and agile change. (Interview with Palsson)

Here, Mr Palsson made two connections to the Core Policy to explain its capacity to support novel policy- and decision-making. The first was an active democratic conversation concerning party organisation and the distribution of decision-making power. That aspect is addressed in more detail in the following section. Palsson also connects the Core Policy to an image of an ‘agile’ future involving unprecedented speed of change and technological development. That relates to the ideas mentioned at the beginning of this paper, including the so-called fourth industrial revolution and the value-driven cyber-libertarian project that the pirate movement is considered to promote (e.g. Burkart, 2014; Demker, 2014; Zulianello, 2018).

At least two additional attributes exist here with implications for the Core Policy’s entrepreneurial capacity, as expressed in the party’s frequent and repetitive encounters with it. The first of those is the intention of the party not to be bound by its previous decisions, particularly if new information is available. When that is the case, there is a legitimate reason to reconsider previous policy or deviate from it. Two of the MPs, Ms Káradóttir and Mr Grímsson, explained how the party attempts to take such issues seriously in its decision-making by ensuring that the process is ‘compartmentalised’ and isolated from other decisions taken by the party. Furthermore, several interviewees maintained that they and the party consciously tried to prevent ad hominem arguments from having any influence. To take that seriously in parliamentary politics is arguably already radical, especially considering Iceland’s strongly partisan politics and coalition governments, as can also be seen in many other European countries. Such governing commonly requires compromise on policy issues in order to maintain coalition cohesion. Nevertheless, the Pirates have frequently expressed, both in speech and action, their commitment to supporting ideas from other political parties if they are in agreement with the party’s Core Policy.

The other attribute to be added concerning the Core Policy’s capacity to further entrepreneurial activity was expressed by Mr Loftsson: ‘[I]f we take the most insane units from both right and left wings of the system – [what they] emphasise – have it make sense and focus on that, then we have something new’ (Interview with Loftsson). Loftsson recognises that within the space of the conventional order of liberal ideology there remains a plethora of ideas that have never been actualised. He also expressed his desire to affirm those ideas and seek to introduce them, as different and meaningful ideas, into current politics.

Drawing on the above, in addition to other insights from the study, two entrepreneurial moments in the party’s repeated encounters with the Core Policy can be identified. Together, they express the party’s capacity to affirm and introduce new differences into politics. One is a moment of decontextualisation, which involves forgetting previous decisions, commitments and policies, and how local politics is practised. It is a forgetting of various pre-ordered constraints on new ideas and actions. Hence, a moment of decontextualisation corresponds to an attempt to escape from the ordering effects of the Core Policy’s liberal statements, as ideological clichés already ordering politics (cf. Deleuze and Guattari, 2008). In other words, the party attempts to detach itself not from the Core Policy’s stated ideas, but from how they are expressed in practice in terms of actual and current policy, involving an assemblage of habits, routines and utterances.

The second moment is one of recontextualisation, where the Core Policy statements are open to encounters with different speeds and intensities. Such recontextualising involves imagining a different future and having permission to bring up ‘insane’ ideas to apply to political practice. Thus, the moment is receptive to a passionate enquiry into how the collection of statements in the Core Policy can be actualised differently – what does radically different liberal democratic politics look like? That latter moment involves a sloganisation of the Core Policy statements. Here, the statements, instead of ordering thought and action according to already actualised politics, evoke spontaneous reactions and new ideas (cf. Porter, 2010). The Core Policy is open to party members’ desire to experiment with new ways of doing politics. Deleuze describes that as taking statements or ideas and pushing them beyond experience, to a (virtual) point beyond what is already actual in politics, to ask, as Loftsson also does: What can an idea become? (Colebrook, 2002). In that way, the Core Policy resonates with what Massumi (2002: 72) calls a ‘field of potentials’, a catalysing point from which new connections, ideas and actions arise, and, eventually, a new order emerges.

Thus, the two moments are ideological movements, repetitively striving to move from the ordering and confinement of internalised clichés towards the catalysing and spontaneous effects of slogans.

A party organising for receptivity to new differences

We [are] trying to make changes, and if you set yourself up exactly like everything that has become infected by the system, it happens much faster. (Interview with Jónsdóttir)

Ways of organising are important to the Pirate Party. As Jónsdóttir indicates, organising is seen as being vital to the party’s desire to maintain the ability to do entrepreneurship in politics. It draws attention to the organisation’s receptivity as an ability to be affected by and open to the members’ desire to create new political differences. Thinking with Deleuze (2013), that openness and ability to be affected is intertwined with the party’s ability to actualise differences in politics.

Party members provided two anecdotal stories showing how they experience the party’s receptivity to their desire to act and affect policy. Those stories are presented below, followed by a broader organisational overview conveying the party’s openness and receptivity to new political differences.

Interviewees gave various responses to questions regarding how and why they became Icelandic Pirate Party members. What they did have in common, however, were joyful encounters and increased ability to act and influence politics. Káradóttir described herself as a ‘dreamer’. She had travelled widely and lived in different countries. She also quit school at 17. Parliamentary politics did not interest her and she did not vote until she was in her thirties. She began to follow national politics in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. In 2012, there was still a lot of anger in Icelandic society. Many had lost their jobs and properties. Káradóttir was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when she did not encounter an angry mob when she first attended meetings preparing to establish the new Pirate Party. She said: ‘I felt like they were interested in bringing me along. That was important to me, and then I was just hooked’. She soon found that the new party, and what it stood for, could facilitate the development and actualisation of her own ideas, which she describes as having been rather incoherent and utopian. Káradóttir’s engagement with the new party grew steadily into a determination to become a professional politician. She eventually quit her job to dedicate herself to that desire. Then, in 2016, she was voted into the national parliament.

Ms Stefánsdóttir graduated in Norway as a landscape architect in 2012. During her studies, she developed an interest in sustainable public transport. When she moved back to Iceland, she hoped people would be more receptive to her ideas than what she experienced in Norway. Soon after the move, Stefánsdóttir was contacted by a political party and asked if she was interested in being on the party’s ballot. She declined, but it highlighted for her the question of whether politics could be a way for her to exercise her desire to develop more sustainable public transport. Then, in 2014, she attended a meeting on urban policy development organised by the Pirate Party. At the meeting, she asked to speak.

[E]veryone listened to what I had to say and it was written down, and it just became a part of the policy. That was such an amazing experience. … I had just never experienced anything like it. (Interview with Stefánsdóttir)

In 2018, Stefánsdóttir was elected to the capital’s City Council as a Pirate Party representative.

Although, clearly, not every member of the Pirate Party becomes a representative, like Káradóttir and Stefánsdóttir, their experience of the party’s receptivity to their desires and ideas reflects the experiences of other members, and is in line with the way the party organises itself. Phrases familiar to the pirate movement, such as ‘flat’, ‘do-ocratic’ and ‘transparent’, are frequently used by members when describing the organisation. Correspondingly, the first thing most people note is that the party does not have an actual party leader. Instead, the party aims to create direction and leadership through joint engagement in discussions about policy and other decisions, with the Core Policy as a guide. In many ways, the party organisation corresponds to Gerbaudo’s (2019: 189) ‘participationism’ – a party organisational restructuring based on a belief in unrestrained participation of ordinary people. The absence of a party leader does, of course, set it apart from most, so-called, platform parties, and is a more radical move towards horizontality (cf. Gerbaudo, 2019). The positive and negative effects of that are still debated within the party. Those in favour of introducing a party leadership role point to the problem of allocating responsibility. They problematise the possibility of people taking important initiatives and risks without accepting formal responsibility. Others, arguing to continue without a party leader, emphasise the strength of open discussions guided by the Core Policy, the ability of ordinary members to take initiatives and the importance of not becoming too much like other parties.         

Second, the party’s main central organ is the Executive Council, which has an administrative role. To ensure transparency, the general rule has been that the Council’s meetings are open for attendance by anyone, with meeting minutes made publicly available online. To limit the impact of any one individual, members can only sit on the Council for four years.

Third, new policy development is a shared responsibility of every party member and complies with the, so-called, ‘three-pirate rule’. The rule establishes an egalitarian three-step process, typically starting with an announcement of an open meeting about an issue or suggestion, which can be proposed by any party member. If a suggestion receives three votes or more at the meeting, it is allowed on the party’s digital platform for online discussion and voting. As mentioned, a new policy has to be argued for and legitimised in accordance with the party’s Core Policy.[10]

The final example of the party’s organisational openness and receptivity is its use of digital media. Digital media is important in the party’s decision-making, making it receptive to direct influence even beyond the boundaries of membership. The party’s own digital platform, and the one it mainly uses, is X.piratar.is.[11] The platform handles various forms of election, including committee elections and party primaries, both national and regional. It also facilitates development of, discussions about and voting on policy changes. All records of policies and changes are stored on the platform. The platform was recently adapted to help match volunteers with various organisational tasks. The party also uses Facebook extensively, thereby exposing the party to encounters with members and non-members alike. Multiple groups associated with the Icelandic Pirate Party can be found on Facebook, with most established for the purpose of discussing a specific political subject (e.g. animal welfare, immigration, education or culture). Some of the groups are independent individual initiatives and in general, participation in the groups does not require party membership. In 2012, the party established the ‘Pirate Chat’, which is arguably the largest and most active Icelandic political Facebook group. Loftsson noted:

The idea was to create a public forum for discussions for people with connections to the party. We knew there was risk involved [and] it would be attractive for the trolls. (Interview with Loftsson)

The discussions in that group have, on numerous occasions, been covered in the national media, due to conflicts and outrageous comments. Nevertheless, the party maintains administrative ties to the group, despite considerable concerns that it reflects badly on the party. The party’s presence on and use of Facebook has also been criticised, but, as some of the interviewees pointed out, people are already on Facebook.

The organisation of the Pirate Party allows for large numbers of encounters with members and non-members. The party’s emphasis on flat structures, do-ocracy and transparency makes for organisational receptivity and openness towards connecting with new ideas, and allows people to influence the party in various ways. That corresponds to organising towards entrepreneurship in politics, which is understood to involve the ability of party members to affirm new differences and seek to create new connections in the organisational space (Hjorth, 2004). It is a type of organising where the ability of those in power to stifle movements that challenge the current order is not protected by formal structures and authority (cf. Hjorth, 2012b). The way in which the Icelandic Pirate Party organises itself limits the ability to arrest and redirect its members’ desires towards any rigid and pre-established party interests, including previous decisions, policies and authority roles. That supports a moment of decontextualisation, of forgetting and moving away from the current order, thereby increasing the potential effect of new ideas and actions emerging.

Discussion

This enquiry, made against the backdrop of Deleuzian thinking, explores an approach to political entrepreneurship in the Icelandic Pirate Party involving repeated encounters with the party’s Core Policy statements and the party’s way of organising its activities. The party is critical of the current order of both politics and society, so it approaches the liberal clichés, as stated in its Core Policy, as if they do not already order politics proper. Instead, the Core Policy statements are visited repeatedly in local encounters, without respect for actualised political order. That involves a moment of decontextualisation and forgetting, which is intertwined with a moment of recontextualisation, or seeking to create new political differences. The clichés become slogans, open to new connections, new (insane) ideas and different futures. The slogans become invitations to a desire seeking to experiment and affirm new differences in politics. In addition, the party’s horizontal organising and supple boundaries expose it to a multitude of heterogeneous encounters and affects.

Such insights contribute to an understanding of political entrepreneurship as a creative practice. According to Sheingate (2003) and Roberts (1998), creativity and intellectual activities in political entrepreneurship involve borrowing and adapting ideas and other known elements. Schumpeter (1934: 65) also spoke of creating ‘new combinations’ as a creative entrepreneurial activity. This Deleuzian enquiry into the Pirate Party shows entrepreneurial creativity that borrows, adapts and recombines a central attribute of politics, namely ideology. It is an ideology that is already socially accepted and largely undisputed, but, in the Icelandic Pirate Party, it is presented in a selection of statements which are repeatedly activated in various situations. This enquiry did not identify any clear agreed-upon universal or shared utopian image guiding the party overall. Rather than a ready-made utopian image, the study conveys one of a party borrowing, adapting and recombining statements and ideas.

Correspondingly, the Core Policy statements are not associated with already actualised or ultimate solutions. Instead they propose challenges and problems in need of new solutions. Indeed, they do so more urgently now than ever before, when one considers current technological and socioeconomic developments. That relates directly to the party’s main criticism of Icelandic politics – the perceived performance gap Roberts (2000) cites, or the inability of other parties to reapproach and re-actualise valued ideas to prepare for, and create, a different future. Awareness of this performance gap was heightened in Iceland by the severity of the financial crisis, which provided the instability the party needed to attract creative activity (Sheingate, 2003).

That brings us closer to the quality of engagement needed for creative activities in politics. Schumpeter (1934: 93) provided indications of the importance of ‘joy’, ‘getting things done’ and being able to ‘exercise one’s energy and ingenuity’ for creativity and entrepreneurship. This enquiry captures party members’ encounters with the party as joyful experiences, with individuals feeling that they can have an impact on the party, even as common members. The study found that members were motivated by the opportunity provided to them by the party being receptive and responsive to their political desires. That suggests that a political party wanting to do entrepreneurship should become receptive to its members’ desire to have an impact, but avoid ossifying those desires into predefined party interests, including in established routines and conventions, which complements Hjorth’s (2014) theorising concerning entrepreneurship in organisations.

In the context of party organisation and its implications for creativity in political entrepreneurship, Sheingate’s (2003) conceptualisation of complexity, involving heterogeneity, uncertainty and ambiguity, is relevant. It also corresponds, in different ways, to the Pirate Party’s expressions of horizontality, do-ocracy and transparency as its guiding organising principles. The openness to platforms, meetings and discussions in the party, even beyond the party membership, works to increase heterogeneity in encounters, including those involving policy development. Ambiguity and uncertainty are effective organisational attributes when it comes to facilitating creativity. Together, they emerge, in particular, in the party’s reluctance to allocate formal authority and responsibility. That has led to members identifying opportunities to take the initiative to act on matters they feel passionately about (e.g. by suggesting new policies or creating platforms for new discussions). That in turn creates space for experimentation, which is an elementary attribute of creativity and entrepreneurship (Rajchman, 2001; Steyaert, 2012). It also poses challenges for the organisation, however, and some interviewees expressed concerns about the lack of authority and responsibility, as it has caused misunderstandings and sparked conflicts.

In 2012, the founders of the Icelandic Pirate Party aligned themselves with the already emerging pirate movement, which grew from a desire to share cultural content (Fredriksson, 2016). The Icelandic founders radically expanded on that initial concept and desired to change Icelandic politics, enhance democracy and transparency, and take part in every aspect of parliamentary politics. This enquiry into the Icelandic Pirate Party was prompted by an interest in political entrepreneurship, but it soon became attentive to the party’s Core Policy and its effects. Deleuze’s thinking has helped to inform a certain demystification of creativity in political entrepreneurship and the Pirate Party. Creativity and entrepreneurship did not mysteriously and suddenly transcend from nowhere. Instead, it emanated from repetitive encounters and ideology. On the surface, the party’s Core Policy statements do not immediately indicate their ability to catalyse novel ideas and actions. Nevertheless, when they are encountered with a desire to make new connections – as slogans and unsolved problems – and facilitated within an organisation rich in heterogeneity and ambiguity, new differences can emerge. Such work can be difficult and complex, and in the Icelandic Pirate Party it has involved experimentation, mistakes and conflict, but there is always risk in entrepreneurship, especially in politics.

Political parties are key to democratic politics and they need to be studied in depth if we want to understand entrepreneurship in politics. The inner life of political parties is rarely the subject of scholarly enquiry (Husted, 2020). In the face of various challenges (e.g. pandemic, climate change, digitalisation and transformation of job markets), understanding entrepreneurship and forces of change in politics has arguably never been so important, but the political entrepreneurship field is still in its infancy. As shown in this paper, Deleuze’s processual philosophy, in its radical engagement with both politics and creativity, offers ways to produce novel insights into political entrepreneurship not limited by an economic context.


[1] See ‘Traust til stofnana’ [Trust in Institutions] at https://www.gallup.is/nidurstodur/thjodarpuls/traust-til-stofnana/.

[2] See https://pp-international.net/pirate-parties/. It is to be noted that not all national Pirate Parties are members of PPI. For instance, the Icelandic Pirate Party discontinued its PPI membership in 2015. As such, it can be assumed that the number is actually higher in 2020.

[3] Information on the number of party organisations varies somewhat, depending on sources and points in time.  

[4] See (Otjes, 2020) for a detailed overview of pirate parties’ election results in Europe.

[5] See https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/feb/11/icelandic-mp-wikileaks-us-birgitta-jonsdottir.

[6] IMMI, or the International Modern Media Initiative, is an organisation established to ‘[bring] together the best functioning laws in relation to freedom of information, expression and speech, to reflecting the reality of borderless world and the challenges that it imposes locally and globally in the 21st century’ (see https://en.immi.is/about-immi/).

[7] In the 2016 elections, the Pirates received 14.5% of the votes and 10 seats in the national parliament. Then in 2017 the party received 9.2% of the votes and six seats. The party has also participated in two election cycles at the municipality level.

[8]Art and media provide a myriad of examples of both types of repetition, of sameness and difference. For instance, in the popular television drama series Downton Abbey, we find impressively detailed representations of British aristocratic life in the early 20th century. It is fiction, yet the creators stop at nothing to make the series historically convincing and provide a picture-perfect image of the past. It offers the audience nostalgic comfort in a meticulous contextualisation through storyline, clothing and environment (Baena and Byker, 2015). Another popular television series that also draws on the past is Westworld. Rather than just repeating the past, however, the series connects to an imagined future. The spirit and environment of the American Wild West era are brought into future virtual reality and artificial intelligence. In so doing, the series brings to the fore critical questions involving artificial intelligence, consciousness and morality (South and Engels, 2018).

[9] See ‘Core policy of the Icelandic Pirate Party’: http://piratar.is/english/core-policy/.

[10] Formal rules about the Executive Council and the party’s policy development can be found in the party’s laws (see http://piratar.is/um-pirata/log-og-reglur/), but additional information about practice was also collected in interviews. 

[11] When asked about the origin and existence of the platform, it is attributed to the desire and skills of the individuals involved in establishing the party, rather than a sense of obligation to the party: ‘we just sort of did it’ (interview with Halldorsson). X.piratar.is was created on the foundations of a software test bed, developed by one of the party co-founders, who was trying to test ideas about different election methods.

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the author(s)  

Hallur Thor Sigurdarson is an assistant professor at Reykjavik University’s Department of Business Administration. Hallur has a professional background in software and game development, and management. Following a PhD from Copenhagen Business School, his research and teaching has mainly been within the fields of entrepreneurship and organisation studies. Current research interests involve process philosophy, entrepreneurship and organising in public offices, the political domain and in software development. Hallur is currently representing RU in the EEA sponsored research project “School of Knowledge Production and Transfer for Global Economy and Governance”.   

Email: hallursig AT ru.is