IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • Oliver Mallett

    (Durham University Business School, UK)

  • Robert Wapshott

    (Sheffield University Management School, UK)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Mallett & Robert Wapshott, 2015. "Making sense of self-employment in late career: understanding the identity work of olderpreneurs," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 29(2), pages 250-266, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:woemps:v:29:y:2015:i:2:p:250-266

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kautonen, Teemu & Hatak, Isabella & Kibler, Ewald & Wainwright, Thomas, 2015. "Emergence of entrepreneurial behaviour: The role of age-based self-image," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 41-51.
    2. Kautonen, Teemu & Kibler, Ewald & Minniti, Maria, 2017. "Late-career entrepreneurship, income and quality of life," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 318-333.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:woemps:v:29:y:2015:i:2:p:250-266. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (SAGE Publications). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.