Building down and dreaming up



Scholars and journalists have heralded the spread of direct sellers like Avon and Amway in the developing world as providing a training ground for capitalist entrepreneurs. By examining ethnographic evidence from Omnilife, a Mexican producer of nutritional supplements, I argue that person-to-person marketing is not a rationalist response to neoliberal economic reforms but, rather, a spiritual one. Quasi-religious organizations like Omnilife promise workers a renewed self-image that restores the balance between individual interests and obligations to others that has been disrupted by neoliberal economic reforms. In pursuing this total transformation, workers accept mechanisms of control that mask the company's overriding profit motive.