Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Biography as a "Tree of Choices": Discovering the Life Trajectories of Young Entrepreneurs in Russia

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Biography as a "Tree of Choices": Discovering the Life Trajectories of Young Entrepreneurs in Russia

Article excerpt

The article reveals the life trajectories of Russian entrepreneurs in the context of four modern institutions of socialization which determine individual career paths--family, education, social environment and professional experience. Our empirical data were 20 semi-structured narrative interviews with entrepreneurs analyzed based on grounded theory (open and axial coding). We analyzed individual life trajectories as "trees of choices," where the main branches are institutions of socialization, and the subsequent branches--individual life features. Finally, we showed the meanings of each institution and found out the determining role of gender and the city of socialization. The empirical output is a model of life trajectories, which we plan to test in a future survey using the strategy of mixed methods research. Keywords: Entrepreneur, Individual Life Trajectories, Institutions of Socialization, Mixed Methods Research

There is a growing interest in the sociology of entrepreneurship. Many articles are devoted to the study of entrepreneurship as a science, which was formed in Russia only at the end of the 20th century (Chepurenko, 2012). The interest in this subject is not accidental: the emergence of entrepreneurs is inextricably linked with the changes in the Russian economic situation. In fact, the planned economy was replaced by a market economy, which is characterized by liberal and democratic reforms. The level of entrepreneurship intention in 2012 was low: 3.8% of respondents said that they are ready to open a business in the next 3 years and they were mostly people under 30 (61%), who did not experienced life in the Soviet Union. The institutions of socialization such as individual's family, education and close surrounding, affect their choices of future career path. Due to the anti-business moods that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is important to define how life trajectories of young entrepreneurs were formed in the context of modern institutions of socialization? The typology of life trajectories would allow determining the role of institutions of socialization in informants' entrepreneurial activity and show how to increase the entrepreneurial potential in Russia. Current study also illustrates the way in which biographies may be presented.

The Institutions of Socialization of Young Entrepreneurs in Russia

Entrepreneurs are very heterogeneous group of people. They often have differences in education, come from different social groups and have different motivations to engage in entrepreneurial activity. Russian people characterize them differently: some of them as solid, personable people, while others as mafia members (Shkaratan, 1993). In our research, an entrepreneur is an individual who has registered, in accordance with the law, and has had a business for at least 3 years (the type of business is not important). We were interested in investigating the life trajectories of experienced entrepreneurs, not nascent ones, as most of them leave entrepreneurial activities in case of the business failure and start working for hire (GEM; National Research University Higher School of Economics, 2007).

There are few papers on individual life trajectories in the literature. Wheaton and Gotlib (2006), for example, define them as "the stable component of a direction toward a life destination...characterized by a given probability of occurrence" (p. 2). Bourdieu defines "life trajectories" as the series of situations consistently occupied by the same agent in a changing space and subjected to the endless transformations (Bourdieu, 2004, as cited in Truc, 2011, p. 160). Rozhdestvenskaya (2012) determines "life trajectories" as movements in social space, which are logically constructed and modified within the confines of personal goals.

From those definitions, individual life trajectories represent different lifelines depending on personal biography. Graphically, a life trajectory can be represented as a tree where its branches are individual life features which are different due to the different role of the institutions of socializations. …

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