Markets, Biographies, Storytelling: Success and Failure in Establishing Market Identities

Stefan Bernhard


Market sociology has shown how markets become embedded in wider social structures. So far, however, little attention has been paid to biographies as relevant market contexts. Among other things it remains unclear how biographical experiences affect market behavior and how market experiences, in turn, become enmeshed with biographies. In the present article I address such questions. It offers theoretical and empirical insights. Theoretically, I draw on Harrison C. WHITE's sociology to argue that market identities emerge at the intersection of biographies (i.e., personal styles) and markets and they become embedded in these contexts via telling stories. Market identities are fragile. They maintain their relative autonomy only by showing how they are similar to and different from markets and personal styles. I present two extensive case studies of persons, who are self-employed as photographer and distributor of food supplements, respectively. These case studies demonstrate how establishing market identities may fail or succeed. Overall, the concept of fragile market identities opens a route to investigating biographies as relevant contexts of market behavior. Biographies are at the same time sources and points of reference for market participants.



biography; embeddedness; Harrison C. WHITE; identity; markets; market sociology; narrative interviews; personal styles; positioning analysis; qualitative methods; stories


Copyright (c) 2016 Stefan Bernhard

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