Re-siting corporate responsibility

The making of South Africa's Avon entrepreneurs

in Focaal
Author:
Catherine Dolan University of Oxford catherine.dolan@sbs.ox.ac.uk

Search for other papers by Catherine Dolan in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
and
Mary Johnstone-Louis University of Oxford mary.johnstone@sbs.ox.ac.uk

Search for other papers by Mary Johnstone-Louis in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

The bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) approach is championed as a way to deliver both corporate profits and poverty reduction. This article explores how “the poor” are repurposed as the instruments of ethical capitalism through the archetypal BOP model—Avon Cosmetics. A harbinger of “compassionate capitalism,” Avon has long stylized its entrepreneurial opportunity as a channel to a transcendent realm of self-actualization and social transformation. The company pursues this vision through a set of discourses and calculative practices that aim to produce industrious, self-disciplined, and empowered “entrepreneurs.” However, while BOP systems like Avon may provide a viable income stream for “poor” women, the practices through which women are “converted” into enterprising subjects can confound their intended “empowerment” effects. The article suggests that while targeting the “bottom of the pyramid” may elide the distinction between the maximization of profit and the imperatives of sustainable development, devolving corporate social responsibility (CSR) to the “entrepreneurial poor” raises questions about the implications of “making poverty business.”

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1032 198 9
Full Text Views 576 77 0
PDF Downloads 966 223 2