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White-Collar Precariousness: A Study on Real Estate Agents in France

Title
White-Collar Precariousness: A Study on Real Estate Agents in France
Speaker(s)
Speaker: Professor Lise Bernard # Centre Maurice Halbwachs, Paris
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
10th Apr 2019 11:00 - 10th Apr 2019 12:00
Location
Violet Laidlaw Room in CMB (formerly, 6th floor staff room)
URL
http://www.sociology.ed.ac.uk/events2/seminar_series/2018_2019/white-collar_precariousness_a_study_on_real_estate_agents_in_france

In this talk I will present the main findings from my book La précarité en col blanc. Une enquête sur les agents immobiliers (Presses Universitaires de France, 2017) (White-collar precariousness. A study on real estate agents). This research focuses on real estate agents in France. It concentrates on, describes and analyses their work, their social trajectories, their values, their representations and several dimensions of their lifestyles, as for instance their relationship with money, with consumption, culture, education, and politics. For this research, I have conducted an ethnography of real estate agents and a statistical analysis of the French social structure of the 2000s. Real estate agents’ income is uncertain since it comes mostly or entirely from the sales they close. Interestingly, this kind of insecurity is more and more frequent in a context where wage-earning society has been called into question. In my research, I call this phenomenon they face “white-collar precariousness”. My findings show that this white-collar precariousness reveals a deep trend in French society and that looking closely at this insecurity enables us to better understand many aspects of what real estate agents do and what they are. Moreover, this book is a contribution, through a case study of realtors, to the larger sociological work on white-collars in sales. It shows that this group (which, in addition to realtors, also includes brokers, insurance advisors, bankers in customer relations, sales representatives, wholesalers, press officers, and other mid-level sales positions with heavy financial responsibilities, as well as owners of service-oriented businesses with a commercial dimension) represents a growing fraction of workers. This claim calls for a revision of the usual categories used to analyse the social stratification of middle classes.

Angus Bancroft