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The Artisan and His Audience: Identification with Work and Price-Setting in a Handicraft Cluster in Southern India

Nov 2015
Working Paper
Aruna Ranganathan
Using ethnographic, experimental and survey data from an Indian handicraft cluster, this paper studies the conditions under which individuals who identify with their work prioritize financial rewards in their economic decisions. I argue that the monetary value that individuals who identify with their work seek for their work output depends on their audience. In particular, when these individuals encounter discerning audiences, who are knowledgeable about and appreciative of their work, they underemphasize financial gains; transactions with non-discerning audiences, however, result in a focus on monetary rewards. I argue that the mechanism underlying this behavior is work-product attachment, where individuals who identify with their work can develop affection for the output of their labor, and in turn, desire audiences who will take care of their work-products beyond the point of sale. By investigating how artisans identifying with their work set prices for their handmade products to different audiences, this paper contributes to our understanding of economic decision-making in the context of meaningful work by highlighting the moderating role of audiences and uncovering the mechanism of work-product attachment underlying these decisions.
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