Sales work and the situated constitution of legitimate economic exchange

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The legitimacy of economic transactions is a fundamental element of market order, and its constitution facilitates the ongoing exchange of commodities and services. By bringing sales work to centre stage, this study empirically examines the theoretical claim that legitimacy in advanced markets is constituted not only by macro-structures and institutions, but also in the course of sales encounters. Based on 50 interviews and on extensive observations of sales interactions in a computer store, this study presents empirical support to the theoretical claim that legitimate economic exchange is forged by an interactive dialogue between two distinct paradigms which co-exist on the sales floor: one based on market logic and the other on moral arguments. The article calls for an analytic framework for the study of economic action which transcends the rational-irrational dichotomy and which can account for the diverse interests and scripts of behaviour played out on the sales floor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-521
Number of pages16
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a two-year grant from the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 934/07). I am grateful to the participants of the seminar at the Max-Planck Institute for the Study of Societies for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft. I would also like to thank my research assistants Sharon Rosenthal and Elinor Shmorek.


  • lay morality
  • market logic
  • market order
  • sales practice
  • situated legitimacy
  • sociology of markets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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