CONSUMING CLASS: Multilevel Marketers in Neoliberal Mexico:

PETER S. CAHN

ABSTRACT

Since the 1980s, Mexican leaders have followed other Latin American countries in pursuing neoliberal economic policies designed to stimulate foreign investment, reduce public spending, and promote free trade. Recent studies of indigenous movements and popular protests challenge the idea that these market-based economic reforms enjoy a broad consensus and suggest that elites impose them by force. By turning the focus to middle-class Mexicans, I argue that some nonelite sectors of society avidly welcome the reign of the free market. Although they do not profit directly from unregulated capitalism, the middle class looks to neoliberalism to ensure access to the material markers of class status. The rising popularity of multilevel marketing companies in Mexico, which glorify consumption and celebrate the possibilities of entrepreneurship, demonstrates the appeal of neoliberalism to citizens fearful of diminished purchasing power. By tying consumption to globalized free markets, neoliberalism does not need coercion to win acceptance.