The entrepreneurial self of market socialism: Life insurance agents in rural central Vietnam

Minh T. N. Nguyen


Casting the self as the primary unit of profit-making and value creation, the entrepreneurial self evolves from neoliberal ideas of self-enterprise and self-development to find ramifications in varying contexts. This article characterizes the entrepreneurial self of market socialism through the case of life insurance agents in Vietnam, where despite deepening marketization, socialist genealogies remain salient alongside cultural frameworks of care and belonging. In their entrepreneurial pursuits, the sales agents must present themselves as both caring and real believers in life insurance as a modern form of care while framing their goals in patriotic and relational terms. This morally activated market actor has emerged in the new economy, where the mandate to be self-entrepreneurial and self-responsible sits alongside the mandate to be a collectively spirited person. Remoralized through collective frameworks, the entrepreneurial self of market socialism betrays the illusory power of the self as it navigates contradictory moral demands.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/726621