Leclair Margot, Dalmasso Cédric
Trade-offs with Economy: How Creative Workers engage with Market-based Roles

This paper departs from the research literature that underlines the on-going debate arising
within creative companies, between creative rationales on the one hand and economic
rationales on the other hand (De Fillippi et al., 2007; Hesmondhalgh, 2013; Lampel et al.,
2000; Linstead, 2010). Most creative actors have to operate both within and through
economic rules and boundaries to effect creative propositions. Creative industries represent an
iconic field for investigating such paradoxes and tensions creative actors have to deal with
(De Fillippi et al., 2007). Known as "particular for the need to appease art and business"
(Jones et al., 2005), those industries are organized around the production and circulation of
"non-material goods directed at a public of consumers for whom they generally serve an
aesthetic or expressive, rather than clearly utilitarian function" (Hirsch, 1972: 641). The
conflicts and tensions between the imperative of a relentless creation of new genres, formats
and products on the one hand, and economic viability on the other hand occur within the
creative economy in a most striking fashion (De Fillippi et al., 2007).
In this context, scholars have noted that so-called creative individuals of those
industries tend to resist or disregard economic preoccupation (Caves, 2000; Jones et al., 2016;
Linstead, 2010). Yet research that explains interactions and ways of working within creative
contexts as consequences of these conflicting tensions is still scarce (Austin, Hjorth & Hessel,
2017). In the paper we describe our effort to address some of the shortcomings of existing
theory by taking up the following research question: How do actors involved into the creative
process deal with market-based activities? We explore the unlikely conversation between
profit maximization and creative forces (Austin, Hjorth & Hessel, 2017; Eikhof &
Haunschild, 2007; Lampel et al, 2000), how those supposedly opposing forces play out in the
daily life of creative actors.
We structure our paper as follows. First, we describe how current research deals with
the organization of conflict between economic and creative influences. We then present the
research setting and describe the everyday doings at Maria Maliusi, the fashion house that
provided the occasion for our study. We follow that with a description of our research
approach, and then present our key findings. We arrive at findings that describe an asymmetry
in market-based roles, with creative workers engaging with the buyer role while dis-engaging
from the seller role. In this asymmetry, we highlight how economic practices are shaped by
both commercial and capitalistic logics of practice, lived as resourceful in the buyer role but
constraining in the seller role. We end up by suggesting the concept of anti-hero
entrepreneur, a creative entrepreneur who deals with economy through trade-offs. Avoiding
the systematic accumulation of capital, the anti-hero entrepreneur only seeks its sole
reproduction to allow survival of creation. Nuanced implications about creative work within
economic interests then arise; we return to the literature to describe how our findings and
theorizing open the discussion on the economic actions and attitudes of creative agents.