Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Making Sense of the Sharing Economy: A Category Formation Approach

Version 1 : Received: 23 October 2020 / Approved: 26 October 2020 / Online: 26 October 2020 (08:50:38 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Cotrim, J.M.; Nunes, F.; Laurenti, R. Making Sense of the Sharing Economy: A Category Formation Approach. Sustainability 2020, 12, 10648. Cotrim, J.M.; Nunes, F.; Laurenti, R. Making Sense of the Sharing Economy: A Category Formation Approach. Sustainability 2020, 12, 10648.


The Sharing Economy (SE) has dawn great attention from several stakeholders in society in the last five years. While business actors are interested in financial opportunities to meet consumer needs, new business models, the academia and governmental organizations are concerned with potential unintended effects on the society and environment. In the process of making a clearer comprehension of the SE phenomenon, researchers have identified that, despite its notable global growth, there still persists a lack of a more solid ground in understanding its origins and respective mechanisms under which it has been evolving over time as a category. In this research, we address the problematics of the origins and ascendency of the SE by examining the process by which the SE is arising as a new category, searching for conceptual clarification and pinpointing the legitimacy granted by key stakeholders. Our guiding research questions are: (1) how the SE was formed and evolved as a market category; and (2), as a market category, is the SE legitimate? Additionally, we attempt to identify the nature of the SE as a category. To answer these questions, we conducted an historical analysis of the expression SE and its equivalents. This paper deepens the discussion about the nature of the SE by providing evidence that (i) the SE has predominantly been formed by emergence processes, comprising social movement, similarity clustering and truce components. It is the combination of all these aforementioned processes that renders the SE a special case of market category formation, which, in turn, has been allowing communication, entrepreneurship, regulation and research about what really is the SE, and despite the evident lack of agreements regarding both the label and its content; (ii) there is a generalized legitimacy granted to the SE by a vast number of stakeholders, even though still lacking on the consolidation of socio-political legitimation, and (iii) the nature of the SE seems to fall in a metaphorical approach, particularly, the notion of radial categories.


Sharing Economy; Category Formation; Emergence; Social Movement; Similarity Clustering; Truce; Radial Category; Identity Legitimation; Stakeholders; Business Models.


Social Sciences, Area Studies

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