Consumption and Cultural Capital for Self-presentation in the Workplace

Mak, Connie, Davies, Andrea and Tsaousi, Christiana (2018) Consumption and Cultural Capital for Self-presentation in the Workplace. In: Global Marketing Conference, 26-29 July 2021, Tokyo, Japan.

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Consumption practices for self-construction and impression management have been widely studied. However, most research adopts snap-shot, cross-sectional views and focuses mainly on leisure and home settings, giving little attention to the mundane context of workplace. Building on the works of Goffman and Bourdieu, this study takes an over-time view to understand how professionals acquire cultural capital related resources and practices for impression management over their career life. Based on retrospective narrative inquiries (Davies & Fitchett, 2015) and a novel on-route walking-with interview (Richardson, 2015) to capture bodily and other affective resonances, this paper reports on our analysis so far with ten senior executives in Hong Kong, as part of an on-going study. Mutability and agency are key to understand the biographical evolution of cultural capital for impression management. Exclusive resources and practices, such as grooming styles and dining choices, are found as ‘class-markers’ in the workplace (Bourdieu 1984), which also keep changing over people’s career life. With thin cultural capital, junior executives can only rely on extrinsic ‘sign vehicles’ (Goffman 1959) such as appearance and surface diligence to extend their work identity (Belk, 1988; Tian and Belk 2005). Over time, when cultural capital is accumulated through accrued learning and socialization (Bourdieu, 1977; Skeggs, 2004), senior executives climb up the career ladder by building up embodied habitus to differentiate themselves through more intrinsic competence and practices, such as discourse and decisive judgement. The study also reflects the field-specific nature of cultural capital (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992) and finds that resources valued in one field could become liabilities or capital shocks in another. Such ‘embodied hysteresis’ is found attributable to the rupture between the changing field conditions (McDonough & Polzer, 2012) and we example how executives struggle with self-field incongruity when switching workplaces. Lastly, the study reveals that the workplace is itself a potent ground for learning embodied competences for workplace consumption and practices. Secondary socialization through observation of the referenced others and continuous self-reflection is found to be a crucial source of acquiring cultural capital for self-presentation.

Keywords:impression management, consumption, habitus
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N500 Marketing
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:45684
Deposited On:22 Jul 2021 15:37

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