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Everyday economics: ideas new and old from lay theories of economic life

Ross, Sandy (2011) Everyday economics: ideas new and old from lay theories of economic life. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This project explores divergences and parallels between lay theories of economic life as experienced and developed in two virtual worlds – Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) and Second Life (SL) – and academic theories from sociology and anthropology as well as economics. My intent is not a critique of economics, but a suggestion that other economic sociologies are possible, and to provide points of departure and ideas for such alternative configurations. Exploration of lay theories is organised around four key conceptual categories – value, exchange, money and markets – which were suggested by participants' accounts and economic organisation within each field site. Respondents' theories offer polyphonic, heteroglossic approaches to economic life that sometimes diverge substantially from academic conceptualisations. Lay theories examined in this research emphasising plurality and multiplicity – especially with respect to monies – going so far as to suggest a radical reorganisation of economies based on monies rather than markets. When lay theories from each category are pieced together, they reveal a social imaginary of boundless abundance, strong reliance upon practices as ways of knowing about and theorising economic life, and strange parellels with studies of “primitive” cultures. This dissertation is based on comparative ethnographies of two disparate virtual worlds, FFXI and SL, which offer different slant-wise views of contemporary capitalist, consumer societies. Final Fantasy XI is a proprietary massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created, owned and maintained by Square-Enix, while Second Life (SL) is a free-form, nonproprietary, three-dimensional virtual world created and maintained in a laissezfaire fashion by Linden Lab. Fieldwork consisted of participant observation, one-on-one interviews, group interviews with FFXI respondents and analysis of fan-made media and corporate texts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Sandy Ross
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Slater, Don and Dodd, Nigel

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