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All About Profit? How Economics and Finance Experts Disseminate the Instrumental Market Logic to Family Businesses

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Scholars have argued that a focus on markets, profits, and finance has increasingly taken center stage in our economic and social lives. We examine this claim for the case of family business, where social relationships intertwine strongly with economic pursuits. We analyze the content of business advice articles provided in Family Business Magazine from 1989 to 2012, and check for the prevalence of advice that emphasizes instrumental profit considerations compared to the embedded, connected-spheres of family and economy. We examine how advisors’ gender and professional affiliation shape the frames used, and trends over two decades. Contrary to expectations, the prevalence of the “profit” frame in advice to family businesses has not generally increased over time with the rise of neoliberalism. Instead, we find that advisors’ professional affiliation is key: economics/finance professionals frame issues significantly less with a connected-spheres view. These experts tend to be male and, over time, their advice is featured more frequently. On the whole, our findings suggest that the economics/finance experts act as institutional change agents to disseminate the instrumental market logic to family business practitioners.

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