Mechanisms of Identity Construction among Members of Pyramid Schemes in Iran: A Critical Ethnography
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Whereas the emergence of pyramid schemes exerted considerable impacts on people’s lives, up to now, far too little attention has been paid to the experiences of members from the sociological perspective, particularly in non-Western contexts. Therefore, this study illuminates social processes underlying participation in such schemes in a less studied social setting, Iran. This article also critically traces the social and psychological consequences of membership in pyramid schemes. We adapted a critical ethnographic approach, including participant observation of local branch offices, followed by 16 in-depth interviews with the former members of schemes. Our findings suggest that the practices deployed by the schemes lead to the building of social identity, namely, “superhuman,” mainly based on the misinterpretation of the real world. Finding the reality surrounded deliberately contrasted with the firms’ promises, the constructed identity fails, and members lose their social capital.