Member Publication: How to Sell a Friend: Disinterest as Relational Work in Direct Sales

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Curtis Child:

Child, Curtis. 2021. “How to Sell a Friend: Disinterest as Relational Work in Direct Sales.” Sociological Science 8: 1-25.


Economic sociologists agree that monetary transactions are not necessarily antithetical to meaningful social relationships. However, they also accept that creating “good matches” between the two requires hard work. In this article, I contribute to the relational program in economic sociology by examining a common but understudied type of work in which one party to a relationship stands to benefit from it financially. I identify in these highly commercialized contexts a particular style of relational work anticipated, but not fully developed, in Pierre Bourdieu’s writings: disinterest. I argue that the disinterested style is manifest by economically implicated individuals who downplay their objectively apparent economic interests in order to preserve or encourage good feelings about a relationship that is meaningful to them. Drawing upon data from the direct selling industry, I show how distributors use disinterest to navigate their work.

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