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Title: The 'quiet economy' : an ethnographic study of the contemporary UK charity shop
Author: Fitton, T.
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis aims to examine the proposed professionalisation of charity shops through a better understanding of the intricate operations that take place on the shop floor. The main argument of this work is that professionalisation of this sector has been mediated by other factors, some of which are socially-oriented, and some of which are due to the problems inherent in the application of rational, bureaucratic systems within organisations. The research terms this mediation process the quiet economy of the modern charity shop: a subtle and nuanced system that operates uniquely within this sphere to negotiate and capitalise upon changes in the market. Within previous literature, professionalisation has come to be associated with paid work, efficiency and ‘business-like’ activities. In particular, a link has been made between this and the quest for ‘profit’, something that is conventionally a characteristic of the private sector. The jarring juxtaposition of this alongside the universal assumption of ‘charity’ and its espoused values of virtuousness and ethical accountability makes charity retail a highly contentious topical issue. The research uses an iterative ethnographic study involving participant observation in two case study charity shops, and supplementary interviews. Three features of the quiet economy emerged from the research: the unpredictable price negotiations, the diverse worker hierarchies, and the presence of intersectoral ties with the private and public sectors. The findings of this research update and contribute to theories on charity shops, charity and work; policy debates about for-profit and non-profit organisations, and are likely to be of interest to those working in charity retail and the wider charity sector. This thesis offers support for its main argument by developing a greater understanding of how charity shops have successfully navigated this contemporary epoch by way of their own quiet economy.
Supervisor: Nettleton, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available