The Hard Sell : An Ethnographic Study of the Direct Selling Industry book cover
1st Edition

The Hard Sell
An Ethnographic Study of the Direct Selling Industry

ISBN 9780367603991
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
216 Pages

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Book Description

In this work John Bone provides a lively and engaging insight into the social world of direct selling organizations. He investigates these under-researched organizations via a detailed ethnography of two home improvement companies selling products such as fitted kitchens, double glazing and conservatories, as well as developing wider sociological debates on trust and interaction. These organizations tend to be loosely ordered and internally competitive collectives whose sole aim is to maximize short term profits through sales strategies that routinely employ the calculative exploitation of consumer norms and expectations. John Bone uses his findings to argue that amid the wave of increasing deregulation and liberalization that has supplanted the planned and regulated form of capitalism that predominated until the 1970s, such conditions are now becoming prevalent in mainstream contemporary organizations, threatening to unleash a latent disorder that underlies the rationality of 'modern' business.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: direct selling; Setting the scene; Entering the field; 'The Persuaders' part 1: marketing; 'The Persuaders' part 2: sales; The culture of the 'con man'; A culture of excess; Booty capitalism; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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John Bone is Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Sociology, University of Aberdeen, UK.


Prize: The British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Memorial Prize 2007 (joint winner) 'John Bone's penetrating study of direct selling in the home improvements industry takes us into a world that makes a mockery of the principles of rationally ordered bureaucracy. This is booty capitalism: irrational, anti-structural, and fixated on short-term gains. Offering a wealth of ethnographic material, Bone's study is a major contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of contemporary capitalism.' Alan Aldridge, University of Nottingham, UK '...for readers who require insights into the day-to-day organization and operations of an important but little-known business type, this provides essential reading...As a contribution to business history, this work of sociology has opened up an aspect of "real life" to academic scrutiny and has exposed a less glamorous part of the retail industry to first-rate effect.' Business History