What is Important to Me Is My Business, Nothing More: Neoliberalism, Ideology and the Work of Selling in Highland Bolivia



Marketplace vendors in the market town of Challapata, Oruro, Bolivia articulate an ideology that resembles that of neoliberalism. Entrepreneurial, competitive, and focused on their individual and immediate family concerns they have little interest in their local and national vendor organizations. Most vendors state that their priorities are those of their business and the profits they earn. This parallel with the basic tenets of neoliberalism is not simply the outcome of an explicit promotion of neoliberal ideologies in Bolivia. I argue that in order to understand vendors' political and social outlook on life we need to explore the work of selling, the relationships such work entails and the broader political economic context in which selling takes place. The data and analysis I present suggest that in examining the politics of groups of people subordinated by neoliberal economic processes we need to consider how these processes generate consensus as well as protest and resistance.