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Peer-to-peer evaluations as narcissistic devices: fabricating an entrepreneurial community

Penelope Van den Bussche (TBS Business School, Toulouse, France)
Claire Dambrin (ESCP Business School, Paris, France)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 8 July 2020

Issue publication date: 10 March 2021




This paper investigates online evaluation processes on peer-to-peer platforms to highlight how online peer evaluation enacts neoliberal subjects and collectives.


The paper uses netnography (Kozinets, 2002) to study the online community of Airbnb. It is also based on 18 interviews, mostly with Airbnb users, and quantitative data about reviews.


Results indicate that peer-to-peer platforms constitute biopolitical infrastructures. They enact and consolidate narcissistic entrepreneurs of the self through evaluation processes and consolidating a for-show community. Specifically, three features make evaluation a powerful neoliberal agent. The object of evaluation shifts from the service to the user's own worth (1). The public nature of the evaluation (2) and symetrical accountability between the evaluator and the evaluatee (3) contribute to excessively positive reviews and this keeps the market fluid.

Social implications

This paper calls for problematization of the idea of sharing in the so-called “sharing economy”. What is shared on peer-to-peer platforms is the comfort of engaging with people like ourselves.


This paper contributes to the literature on online accounting by extending consideration of evaluation beyond the review process. It also stresses that trust in the evaluative infrastructure is fostered by narcissistic relationships between users, who come to use the platform as a mirror. The peer-to-peer context refreshes the our knowledge on evaluation in a corporate context by highlighting phenomena of standardized spontaneity and euphemized evaluation language. This allows evaluation processes to incorporate a market logic without having to fuel competition.



This paper forms part of a special section “Neoliberalism and Management Accounting”, guest edited by Professor Danture Wickramasinghe, Professor Christine Cooper and Dr Chandana Alawattage.We are grateful to the editors and both anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on our paper. This paper also benefited from the comments by participants at the 2018 Management Accounting as Social and Organizational Practice; the 12th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference (2018) and the Workshop on Neoliberalism and Management Accounting held at the University of Glasgow in 2018. We are particularly grateful to Chris Chapman, Matthew Hall, Martin Messner, Jan Mouritsen, Cameron Graham and Claudine Grisard for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.


Van den Bussche, P. and Dambrin, C. (2021), "Peer-to-peer evaluations as narcissistic devices: fabricating an entrepreneurial community", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 505-530.



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