Italian entrepreneurs of the construction business in a time of economic recession : ideas, strategies and movements
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This thesis is based on an ethnographic study of entrepreneurs of the construction business in Lombardy, Northern Italy. The aim is to gain some understanding of this business, of entrepreneurialism, and of individuals in a non-stereotypical light through a full and complex account of their daily lives. The aim is to reveal the thoughts, actions and strategies of particular local actors in their everyday contingency and contradictoriness. No attempt is made to simplify the complexity of their understandings and practices for the sake of producing a single encompassing and consistent image. Many similarities were found between the practices of entrepreneurialism and those of the discipline of anthropology. Knowledge and information are constantly sought after but are recognised as emerging in unexpected places and times and as being socially negotiated. Apprenticeship is often used as a methodology, and learning often happens through experience. Contextual application of knowledge is seen as essential. In order to exchange information and knowledge, to collaborate with other businessmen or to simply get a job, trust is fundamental and constantly negotiated. Personal relationships and trust become particularly important in an uncertain market situation, as ways to face risk. Trust is acquired slowly and accorded contextually, through face-to-face interaction and cultivated relationships, but also through positive recommendations or simply a feeling of sympathy. Knowledge, apprenticeship, trust and risk are key themes of the thesis. The blurred borders between the distinct individual personalities of my informants and their collective identities and commonalities are also discussed. The personality of an entrepreneur is seen as ideally complex, in which many (possibly contradictory) characteristics can be expected to be present, but also ideally balanced, each manifesting itself in specific situations. The ethnography also explores the fragility of the entrepreneur, in apparent contradiction to their strong and charismatic personalities. It is seen to be despite and because of their positions of power that they also feel vulnerable: their discourse is imbued with their fears for their businesses in a difficult period of economic crisis. Finally, through a ubiquitous desire to control markets and the future, we also encounter forms of corruption; corruption that is often condemned verbally but nevertheless is present in the business world and amplified by public and media discourses. The mechanisms by which work that is put out to tender is subject to possible manipulation are examined, and the ideas of the entrepreneurs about these practices are described—again demonstrating how thoughts and practices are often self-contradictory in their contextual relevance and application.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-04
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 4th May 2022
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