DOI: 10.1002/nad.12178 ISSN:

Speculating on social life

Mathias Levi Toft Kristiansen
  • Pharmaceutical Science


This article addresses how a group of people in the San Francisco Bay Area turns social encounters into opportunities to make money. This group participated in sales schemes known as multi‐level marketing (MLM). MLM companies use a sales model in which participants earn money by selling products on behalf of companies while also recruiting people to join the companies as fellow salespeople. MLM participants earn financial commissions through selling products and recruiting others to join their network, leading them to hunt for new customers in public spaces or among existing social connections. The subjects of the study perceived social life as a commercial opportunity that could lead to financial gain, deliberately turning Saturday morning at the farmers' market or Sunday night dinner at a restaurant into an opportunity to recruit new customers. I interpret these activities as a form of social speculation: MLM participants invested their time in relationships that may 1 day be profitable, but they never knew whether their efforts would succeed. The potential to make money from social encounters was a constant motivator. Social speculation is an expression of a development in the United States in which people perceive social relationships in terms of economic potential because of precarious market conditions.

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