Back to top

Making It at Any Cost

Making It at Any Cost
Aspirations and Politics in a Counterfeit Clothing Marketplace

An examination of the vast counterfeit clothing marketplace in Buenos Aires known as La Salada, this book is the first ethnographic study to examine how aspirations shape behaviors of workers in an informal and illegal economy.

June 2020
Add to cart
296 pages | 6 x 9 | 12 b&w photos, 2 b&w maps, 1 b&w chart/graph |

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.

  • Maps
  • The Structure of La Salada Marketplace
  • List of La Salada Characters
  • Acknowledgments
  • 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
    • Conclusion
    • Epilogue
  • Methodological Appendix
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index

Matías Dewey
Cologne, Germany

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 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, Baruch College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, author of Criminal Enterprises and Governance in Latin America and the Caribbea

“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.”
Javier Auyero, University of Texas, Austin, author of Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina

“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, Vanderbilt University, author of The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing


Available for Kindle
Available on Google Play
Available on Kobo
Available for Nook
Available on the Apple Store

This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca