The Marketisation of Everyday Life

Dr Sidonie Naulin
Institut d’études Politique de Grenoble
Dr Anne Jourdain
Université Paris-Dauphine
SMALL GROUP PROJECT:

Abstract

With the expansion of web platforms such as Craigslist.org, Etsy.com or Vizeat.com, people are encouraged to commodify their personal possessions as well as their domestic or leisure practices. This is for example the case of creators who sell their products (jewellery, pots…) on Etsy.com. It is also the case of foodies who commodify their services – homemade meals, cooking classes – thanks to online platforms. This project explores the marketisation of practices previously considered as recreational or domestic, such as cooking, knitting, doing handicrafts, caring, etc. It aims at contributing to the emerging field of studies on “platform capitalism” by providing case studies of mostly female domestic practices marketised thanks to the Internet. The project gathers academics from different backgrounds (sociology, economics, management, communication, psychology) who will engage in a series of meetings in order to examine the individual and collective effects of the marketisation of everyday life practices: who are the people engaged in such activities? How do they combine family and work time? What are the consequences of the newly marketised activities on their social status but also on the social status of the activities? The participants have already conducted fieldwork (semi-structured interviews, observations, quantitative surveys) related to the proposal in their own research. The purpose of the workshop is to reanalyse these existing data through a common perspective in order to extract common features and to enrich the analysis through interdisciplinary dialogue. The novelty of the project stems from the focus on domestic or leisure activities as a lens to analyse the transformations of capitalism. The encountering of separate bodies of literature – economics and sociology on capitalism and markets and work on the one hand, and on leisure, domesticity and gender on the other hand – will improve understanding of the current transformations of capitalism.

The Research Idea

With the expansion of web platforms such as Craigslist.org, Etsy.com or Vizeat.com, people are encouraged to commodify their personal possessions as well as their domestic or leisure practices. This is for example the case of creators who sell their products (clothes, jewellery, pots…) on Etsy.com. It is also the case of foodies who commodify their services – homemade meals, cooking classes – thanks to online platforms. This project explores the marketisation of practices previously considered as recreational or domestic, such as cooking, knitting, doing handicrafts, blogging, taking care, etc. The main goal is to bring to light the causes and effects of the extension of the market especially through Internet devices. The project gathers academics from different backgrounds (sociology, economics, management, communication, psychology) who will engage in a series of meetings and dialogues in order to examine the individual and collective effects of the marketisation of everyday life practices: who are the people engaged in such activities? How do they combine family and work time? What are the consequences of the newly marketised activities on their social status but also on the social status of the activities themselves? Finally, the project aims at contributing to the emerging field of studies on “platform capitalism” by providing case studies of mostly female domestic practices marketised thanks to the Internet. It will be nourished by an interdisciplinary approach.

Background

“Plattform Kapitalismus” or “3.0 capitalism” (Cassini & Escande, 2015) is a growing field of investigations for scientists but little empirical research has been carried out yet. The dominant theoretical discourse opposes two visions. On the one hand, the optimistic visions predict a supersession of capitalism by the development of a “sharing economy” or a renewal of capitalism thanks the sources of employment (mainly through the development of self-employment) allowed by web platforms. On the other hand, the pessimistic vision denounces the illusion of a revolution and points out the growth of financial and market principles on web platforms. Our project aims at enriching those different bodies of literature by providing empirical groundings to the alleged effects of platform capitalism.
Our focus will be the transformation of leisure/work as well as the professional/amateur frontiers induced by the possibility of marketisation of everyday practices through the Internet. Historically, those questions have been tackled by different fields of research. Art sociology on the one hand has questioned the frontier between amateurs and professionals in the art field (Mauger, 2006; Moulin et al., 1985; Weber et Lamy, 1999). Sociology of work on the other hand has investigated “non-work” (Godechot, Lurol et Méda, 1999) and also “domestic work” most often from a feministic perspective (Maruani, 2001). Our ambition is to link those separate bodies of literature to the economic and socio-economic literature that questions the marketisation-demarketisation processes (Appadurai, 1988, Boltanski et Chiapello, 1999, Polanyi, 1944, Zelizer, 2005).

The Focus

The main innovation will consist in the analysis of widely practiced activities which are more and more visible in the public sphere, but usually under-studied by scholars since they are considered as trivial and depreciated because they are often female and/or ordinary activities (cooking, knitting, caring, etc.). Four questions will be of special interest to the project participants: how do ordinary people turn themselves into entrepreneurs by commodifying their domestic or leisure practices? At the individual level, does marketisation of domestic and leisure practices have an empowering effect or does it maintain class and gender domination? How do online platforms articulate sharing values with market values and (re-)create communities of interest? How do established professionals and public regulators react to the emergence of newly marketised services or commodities? Through a process of empirical, collective, and interdisciplinary work, we will especially improve understanding of web platforms’ transformations of domestic or leisure activities.

Theoretical Novelty

The main theoretical objective is to develop a preliminary framework for understanding the marketisation of everyday life. The novelty of the project stems from the focus on domestic or leisure activities as a lens to analyse the transformations of capitalism. Rather than concentrate on the transformations of professional markets, we will wonder how non-professional actors become market actors particularly thanks to online devices and we will thus question the “entrepreneurialisation” of society. The combining of separate bodies of literature – economics and sociology focussed on both capitalism, markets and work, and on leisure, domesticity and gender – will favour a better understanding of the marketisation of everyday life. The project will finally question the current transformation/extension of capitalism and its impact at individual and collective levels.

Methodology

The handful of scholars that comprise the research sample have already conducted fieldwork (semi-structured interviews, observations, quantitative surveys) related to the proposal in their own research. Their fieldwork deals with caring, coaching, cooking, doing handicrafts, knitting, selling second-hand clothes or furniture. The purpose of the workshop is mostly to reanalyse these existing data through a common perspective (the marketisation of everyday life), in order to extract common features and to enrich the analysis with an interdisciplinary dialogue (participants have backgrounds in sociology, economics, management, psychology and communication). If needed, each scholar will be encouraged to enrich his/her own data (by performing new semi-structured interviews for example) to improve understanding of the economic, social and political stakes of marketisation.

Work Plan

In 2016, preliminary work will consist in the final selection of the research participants and the organisation of a kick-off meeting in Paris in October. 700 euros of funding from the MSH (Maison des Sciences de l’Homme) Paris-Nord will be used for this purpose. Simultaneously, a Mini Conference “The Marketisation of Everyday Life” will be held during the SASE (Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics) conference at the University of Berkeley on June 22-24 2016. Five members of the planned team will participate in this Mini Conference: Anne Jourdain, Sidonie Naulin (organisers), Virginia Pflücke, Scarlett Salman and Vinciane Zabban. This event should pave the way for the collective discussions of the project.
Currently, we are requesting funds to support regular meetings and a final workshop which will structure the collective work in 2017. Four regular face-to-face meetings are planned (January, March, May, September 2017). During each of these meetings, two researchers will present their contribution to the collective project which will be discussed by all the participants. On this basis, the research team will work on developing a common research agenda. After a first round of discussions, a two-day workshop will be organised in November to discuss the final version of the draft papers and to publicly present the results of the joint work. In December 2017 the papers will be submitted for a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal (e.g. Socio-Economic Review) and a French version of the articles will be tailored for a book for a non-academic readership.

Outcome

From a theoretical point of view, the project will enable deeper understanding of the current transformations of capitalism. Concerning scientific publications and effective results, the project will lead to three outcomes. First, the main results will be presented during a public two-day workshop in Paris. This scientific event should concern a large number of scholars who work on work, leisure, market, firms and so on. Then, a special issue bringing together the contributions of all the project’s participants will be submitted to the Socio-Economic Review. Finally, a joint book in French will be edited, to make the academic results accessible to a wider audience. In the short term, the publications produced will provide the first multidisciplinary perspective on the marketisation of everyday life and lay the foundations for an international and multidisciplinary network of scholars studying the marketisation of leisure or domestic activities. This network will reveal who decides to marketise his/her activity, how he or she articulates this with job, family and leisure, and what the collective consequences of the emergence of new markets are. The ISRF’s funding is required to kick-start this process by providing the international team with an opportunity to get together, share insight, produce a joint multidisciplinary work and explore the opportunities for future research collaboration.