"When I enter the elevator of my house, I already feel like I am at work": Borders between work and not-work in network marketing

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Nataliya Savelieva



This article considers the reasons for and the mechanisms of the erosion of boundaries between work and not-work in multi-level direct-sales organizations. The article is based on the author's in-depth research on the American cosmetics distribution company Mary Kay, active in Russia since 1993. As the activities of the company distributor turn from hobby to career, the border between professional and personal spheres, work and not-work becomes increasingly fluid. A necessary (although not exclusive) condition for this fluidity is the absence of wage contract between the Company and its distributors. This transformation results in the changes in everyday practices of the distributors: work practices become integrated into not-work practices, transforming the form and meaning of the latter. As a result, activities which previously were separate from work become “work” in and of themselves: socializing with friends, maintaining social networks, personal grooming, as well as the spheres of emotional and subjective affect. This strengthens the reassignment of work as not-work, “leisure,” or “hobby,” which supports the belief of the distributors in the fairness and advantage of their own position and helps justify the expenses connected with their work for the Company.

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