Making sense of self-employment in late career: understanding the identity work of olderpreneurs



Mallett O & Wapshott R (2015) Making sense of self-employment in late career: understanding the identity work of olderpreneurs. Work, Employment and Society, 29 (2), pp. 250-266.

The enterprise culture is a pervasive socio-historical discourse. This article adopts a narrative identity work approach to explore how individuals may exert agency to make sense of and negotiate with the structuring features of such discourses. Older entrepreneurs are an interesting case through which to explore these processes because ageing is predominantly portrayed as a form of decline to be resisted or hidden and as inherently anti-enterprise. Qualitative, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with two UK-based older entrepreneurs reveal how they engaged problematically with discourses around enterprise culture and ageing in constructing their identities. Sedimentation and innovation are proposed as valuable concepts for understanding how particular discourses become embedded in the understanding and identity work of individuals and how they seek to exert agency. The findings demonstrate the difficulties in innovative identity work for older entrepreneurs and this is discussed in terms of narrative resource poverty.

discourse; enterprise culture; entrepreneur; identity; late career; narrative

Work, Employment and Society: Volume 29, Issue 2

FundersUniversity of Durham
Publication date01/04/2015
Publication date online13/01/2015
Date accepted by journal03/07/2014
PublisherSAGE Publications

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Professor Oliver Mallett

Professor Oliver Mallett

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Management, Work and Organisation