The ‘Enterprising Self’ at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Avon Cosmetic’s Repurposing of South Africa’s ‘Informal’ Workers

Dolan, Catherine (2011) The ‘Enterprising Self’ at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Avon Cosmetic’s Repurposing of South Africa’s ‘Informal’ Workers. In: 20th Anniversary Conference: Responding to the Crisis in International Development, 9 September 2011, London School of Economics, UK. (Unpublished)

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In the wake of C. K. Prahalad’s 2004 publication, The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) schemes have become increasingly prominent on the development landscape. Lauded as the century’s most influential model of socially responsible business (Anderson and Billou 2007), the BOP approach weds development practice and the pursuit of profit, maintaining that development goals can be achieved by simply extending the scope and
scale of capitalism to the four billion men and women who live on less than two dollars per day (Cross and Street 2009, Prahalad 2004). It is a vision driven not by corporate largesse, but by a web of entrepreneurs2 who are purported to stimulate capitalism while delivering poverty reduction and gender empowerment door-to-door. From ‘poor’ women selling Danone yogurt and Bata shoes house-to-house in rural Bangladesh, to Unilever’s Shakti Ammas (mothers) distributing soap among remote villages across India and to Avon ladies peddling perfume on the streets of Soweto, Bangkok and Mexico City, BOP schemes advance a form of
development that positions the (poor, often female) individual rather than the state or the market as ultimately responsible for generating (or not) development.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: International Development; Cosmetics Industry; Ethics South Africa; Employment and Wages
Subject(s): Retail
Centre: Oxford Institute of Retail Management
Faculty of Marketing
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2012 20:44
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:06

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