From reductive to generative crisis: businesspeople using polysemous justifications to make sense of COVID-19

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Abstract

Both lay understandings of crisis moments and influential psychological models of cognition in times of uncertainty emphasize how crises limit thinking. Conversely, scholars as diverse as Foucault, Swidler, Bourdieu, and Butler have elaborated generative conceptions of crisis, which specify crises as moments of change, transformation, and heightened cognition. The research presented here takes up the question of how crises become thinkable, as actors gradually make sense of a newly uncertain context. Against a backdrop of polarization on the topic, in-depth interviews with 60 businesspeople navigating the coronavirus pandemic show that they see public health and economic well-being as interrelated. This has important effects on how businesses interpret and implement government directives and public health guidelines, from choosing to close before being mandated to do so, to staying closed even when allowed to reopen. Taken together, these findings substantiate generative models of crisis while drawing attention to the polysemous justifications elaborated by actors as they navigate shifting cultural and social scaffoldings.

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APA

Sendroiu, I. (2022). From reductive to generative crisis: businesspeople using polysemous justifications to make sense of COVID-19. American Journal of Cultural Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-021-00147-w

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