Title: Making up exploitation: direct selling, cosmetics and forms of precarious labour in modern Brazil

Authors: Ludmila Costhek Abílio

Addresses: Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto, 908, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Abstract: This paper integrates an analysis of the direct selling system for cosmetics with the debate on precarious labour. Labour flexibility and precarious employment represent very important employment forms in Brazil. The paper focuses on a Brazilian cosmetic company with one million direct sellers. These sellers, nominated as 'consultants', are not publicly recognised as workers. Their activity of selling is highly connected with their own consumption of the products. The paper analyses the growth of this kind of activity over the last 20 years and relates economic transformation to the pattern of labour exploitation. It discusses how the loss of boundaries between work and consumption allows these women to handle all the risks of the distribution of the products. It explores how the contemporary direct selling system benefits from new forms of old precarious labour relations evident in the past.

Keywords: informal labour; direct sales system; female labour; work; consumption; capitalist accumulation; modern Brazil; exploitation; women; direct selling; cosmetics; labour flexibility; precarious employment.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMCP.2012.047207

International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, 2012 Vol.6 No.1/2, pp.59 - 70

Available online: 03 Jun 2012 *

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