La Salada is South America’s largest marketplace for fraudulently labeled clothing, a sprawling and dangerous bazaar on the fringes of Buenos Aires where counterfeit goods are bought and sold, armed thieves roam the nearby streets, and corrupt police and politicians turn a blind eye to widespread unlawful behaviors. Despite conditions traditionally considered inhospitable to economic growth—including acute interpersonal distrust, pervasive personal insecurity, and rampant violence—business in La Salada is booming under an established order completely detached from the state.
Matías Dewey dives deep into the world of La Salada to examine how market exchanges function outside the law and how agreements and norms develop in the economy for counterfeit clothing. Drawing on seven months of ethnographic research and more than a hundred interviews, Dewey argues that aspirations for a better future shape garment workers’ everyday practices, from their home-based sweatshops to the market stalls. The book unearths a new configuration of garment production and commercialization detached from global supply chains, submerged in the shadows of informality and illegality, and rooted in aspiration and opportunity.
Matías Dewey is a senior researcher in sociology at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. He was a visiting scholar at the Extra-Legal Governance Institute at the University of Oxford, at MaxPo in Paris, and most recently at the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of El orden clandestino, a Spanish-language book on illegal markets in Argentina, and a co-editor of The Architecture of Illegal Markets: Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy. His articles have appeared in Socio-Economic Review, Latin American Research Review, Journal of Latin American Studies, and Current Sociology.
[Making It at Any Cost] is a sophisticated piece of ethnographic work, especially relevant for academic research focused on the study of urban economic structures in Latin American cities. Throughout the book, the well-structured analytical sequence and narrative followed by the author is captivating and manages to engage the reader in the everyday living of the inhabitants of La Salada.
~European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Making It at Any Cost is a fantastic ethnographic work that enters into great detail without boring the reader, and without failing to acknowledge the importance of the broader spatial and historical context...Making It at Any Cost is the best of all existing books on La Salada. Colleagues working on how social relations are governed in illegal marketplaces and on sweatshop economies producing fast fashion will most probably be left with pages of questions, answers, and doubts that will modify their research agendas.
Making It at Any Cost provides a nuanced account of a counterfeit market that reveals itself to be as rational, hardworking, and creative as any of its 'legal' counterparts in the global supply chain. In doing so, the book shows how actors themselves create order and sustained relationships precisely where the state’s presence is most attenuated and where distrust predominates...Future scholars will do well to return to this book.
~Latin American Politics and Society
Making It at Any Cost provides a unique and potentially seminal set of insights into informal orders not just in Latin America but globally. This book makes critical and important claims about the community that has developed around La Salada and the wider issue of informal governance.
~Enrique Desmond Arias
Ordinary people’s struggles in illicit and informal worlds have been the subject of enduring misrepresentations—from romantic celebrations to thinly veiled classist assaults on their character or morality. Drawing on deeply embedded ethnographic fieldwork and deftly mobilizing ideas from economic, cultural, and political sociology, this beautiful book tells an illuminating story of hope and distrust, of suffering and overcoming, of aspirations and frustrations. Gracias, Matías, for this insightful rendering of the intricacies, challenges, and contradictions of life at the urban margins.
With vivid ethnographic detail and compelling analytic clarity, Making It at Any Cost tells the story of La Salada counterfeit clothing market in Buenos Aires. Dewey shows that while La Salada operates outside legal frameworks, its entrepreneurs and traders have created their own system governed by social norms and market structures. Dewey takes their hopes and aspirations seriously, revealing how the emotional melds with the material in economic behavior. The lessons he uncovers apply far beyond La Salada, telling us about the ways all markets are constructed.
~Edward F. Fischer
[Dewey] demonstrates a clear attachment to both the location and his subjects and provides a rich description of their lives and their struggles...One of the core values of ethnographic research is an immersive and detailed depiction of a setting, and Dewey meets this objective.
~American Journal of Sociology
[Making It at Any Cost] is an important contribution to the role local economic practices play in organizing commitments, subjectivities, and personal trajectories, and marries European and US economic sociology with Latin American studies of urban and labor informality, aiming to expand some of its lessons beyond the site-specific characteristics of La Salada...The book calls our attention to the creativity, and resilience of subaltern agents in the global economy...This is an excellent book that uses creatively the case of La Salada to elegantly fill gaps in the US and European economic sociology scholarship, expending current understandings of morality in illegal and contested markets. As such, it would be a great addition to courses on informal markets, studies of morality, global chains, and Latin American urban studies.
The Structure of La Salada Marketplace
List of La Salada Characters
Introduction: Aspirations amid Distrust
Part I: History, Place, and Politics
Chapter 1. The Garment Market and the Marketplace
Chapter 2. Governing La Salada
Chapter 3. With God and the Devil
Part II: Prisoners of Aspirations
Chapter 4. All I Want Is a Sweatshop
Chapter 5. The Garment Entrepreneur at La Salada
Chapter 6. Dynamics of Aspirations
Part III: Aspirations in Action
Chapter 7. Narratives of Sacrifice and Autonomy
Chapter 8. Taste, Credit, and Bullets
Chapter 9. Squatters, Cart-Pullers, and Demolition
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