In contrast to industrial markets based on mass-production of material goods, postindustrial markets hinge on images, experiences, and emotions produced and exchanged on screens and in real life. Because postindustrial markets tend to be highly concentrated and technology-driven, they pose a threat to small businesses and low-skill workers in both advanced industrial economies and the Global South, where a large share of the population makes a living in the informal economy. Using the 2014 World Cup as a case of postindustrial economic activity hinged on spectacle, emotional experience, and intellectual property, I analyze the income-making strategies used by street vendors in São Paulo, Brazil. I show that organizers’ control of fan markets was limited by local conceptions of ownership over national symbols as well as informal workers’ flexible relation to legal norms and enforcement-dodging practices. Circumventing market barriers required risky and sophisticated strategies, however, which were more readily available to the more marginal section of the street vending population.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
This is not to suggest that intellectual property was not important in industrial markets. In fact, intellectual property law played a key role in the early stages of industrialization (see Ford 2017).
The distinction between exclusion and exploitation echoes the well-known distinction between the theory of social closure developed by Max Weber and the Marxist theory of exploitation. In its most common understanding, social closure refers to the erection of entry barriers by members of a privileged group to prevent others from sharing in their benefits. Whether or not the concept of social closure applies to the market practices described here is a complex question given both the variety of practices by which market incumbents preserve their advantages and the different conceptions of social closure in the literature (see (Cuvi 2018)), but the establishment of formal rules of exclusion is certainly one key mechanism in Weber’s (Weber 1978) original formulation.
Interview with unlicensed street vendor, August 4, 2014.
In his book, Boykoff (2013) elaborates on the “commercialization” of the Olympics and security measures.
FIFA forced Brazil to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages inside stadiums (and to allow the trademarking of event names). The tightly regulated environment of recent World Cups contrasts with past editions such as Brazil in 1950, when an estimated 30.000 spectators attended the final game without purchasing tickets.
See Pesquisa Mensal de Emprego report published by SEADE, November 2017 at http://www.seade.gov.br/produtos/midia/2017/12/Apres_PED_RMSP_396_nov_2017.pdf. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
A municipal bill legalizing the street trade of non-packaged foods was adopted after the World Cup.
According to the VPRO Blacklight documentary Trade Mark Twenty Ten, even “2010,” during the 2010 World Cup, “belonged to FIFA.”
Interview with licensed street vendor, August 2014.
All names are pseudonyms.
Conversions are based on the exchange rate at the time of the World Cup.
Interview with street artist, July 19, 2014.
Interview with unlicensed street vendor, August 4. This interviewee said, quite tellingly, that the square was enclosed (fechado) “by Brahma,” the official beer sponsor.
See BBC “Brazil’s recession worst on record” at https://www.bbc.com/news/business-39193748 (published March 7, 2017; accessed December 6, 2018).
Interview with unlicensed street vendors, August 4, 2014.
Bourdieu (1977) is critical of this view, which he refers to as economism, while still holding that rituals “disguise” actual (and unequal) exchanges of resources.
Incumbents, not just challengers, can also take advantage of these symbolic commons, as Coca Cola’s commercial use of Santa Claus and Christmas imagery illustrates.
Agarwala, R. (2008). Reshaping the social contract: Emerging relations between the state and informal labor in India. Theory and Society, 37(4), 375–408.
Agarwala, R. (2013). Informal labor, formal politics, and dignified discontent in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.
AlSayyad, N. (2004). Urban informality as a “new” way of life. In A. Roy &N. AlSayyad (Eds.), Urban informality: Transnational perspectives from theMiddle East, Latin America, and South Asia (pp. 7-30). Lanham: LexingtonBooks..
Balsiger, P. (2016). Moral Struggles in Markets: The Fight against Battery Cages and the Rise of Cage-Free Eggs in Switzerland. European Journal of Sociology, 57(3), 419-450.
Baudrillard, J. (1998). The consumer society: Myths and structures. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Bayat, A. (2000). From ‘dangerous classes’ to ‘quiet rebels’: Politics of the urban subaltern in the global south. International Sociology, 15(3), 533–557.
Bell, D. (1973). The coming of post-industrial society; a venture in social forecasting. New York: Basic Books.
Black, D., & Van Der Westhuizen, J. (2004). The allure of global games for'semi-peripheral'polities and spaces: A research agenda. Third World Quarterly, 25(7), 1195–1214.
Block, F. (1990). Postindustrial possibilities: A critique of economic discourse. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1979). La Distinction. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.
Bourdieu, P. (2000). Les structures sociales de l’économie. Paris: Editions du Seuil.
Bourdieu, P. (2001). Langage et pouvoir symbolique. Paris: Fayard.
Boykoff, J. (2011). The anti-olympics. New Left Review, 67, 41–59.
Boykoff, J. (2013). Celebration capitalism and the Olympic games. London: Routledge.
Bromley, R. (2000). Street vending and public policy: A global review. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 20(1/2), 1–28.
Brown, A. (2006). Contested space: Street trading, public space, and livelihoods in developing cities. West Yorkshire: Intermediate Technology Development Group.
Brugger, F., & Gehrke, C. (2018). Skilling and deskilling: Technological change in classical economic theory and its empirical evidence. Theory and Society, 47(5), 663–689.
Carruthers, B. G. (2015). Financialization and the institutional foundations of the new capitalism. Socio-Economic Review, 13, 379–398.
Castells, Manuel. 2011. The information age: Economy, society, and culture (Vol. 1): John Wiley & Sons.
Castells, M., & Portes, A. (1989). World underneath: The origins, dynamics, and effects of the informal economy. In A. Portes, M. Castells, & L. A. Benton (Eds.), The informal economy: Studies in advanced and less developed countries (pp. 11–40). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Chatterjee, P. (2004). The politics of the governed: Reflections on popular politics in most of the world. New York: Columbia University Press.
Clark, G. (1988). Traders versus the state : Anthropological approaches to unofficial economies. Boulder: Westview Press.
Cross, J. C. (1998). Informal politics: Street vendors and the state in Mexico City: Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Cross, J., & Alfonso Morales (Eds.). (2007). Street entrepreneurs: People, place, and politics in local and global perspective. London: Routledge.
Cuvi, J. (2018). The peddlers’ aristocracy: Social closure, path-dependence, and street vendors in São Paulo. Qualitative Sociology. Online First Publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-018-9404-0.
De Soto, H. (1989). The other path. New York: Harper & Row.
Fernández-Kelly, P., & Shefner, J. (Eds). (2006). Out of the shadows: Political action and the informal economy in Latin America. University Park: Penn State Press.
Fligstein, N. (2002). The architecture of markets: An economic sociology of twenty-first-century capitalist societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ford, L. R. (2017). Intellectual property and industrialization: Legalizing hope in economic growth. Theory and Society, 46(1), 57–93.
Frank, R. H., & Cook, P. J. (2010). The winner-take-all society: Why the few at the top get so much more than the rest of us. New York: Random House.
Frenkel, S., Confessore, N., Kang, C., Rosenberg, M., & Nicas, J. (2018). Delay, deny and deflect: How Facebook’s leaders fought through crisis. New York Times, November 14. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/facebook-data-russia-election-racism.html?module=inline . Accessed on November 22, 2018.
Goldstein, D. M. (2016). Owners of the sidewalk: Security and survival in the informal city. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
González de la Rocha, M., Ward, P., Safa, H., Perlman, J., Roberts, B., & Jelin, E. (2004). From the marginality of the 1960s to the "new poverty" of today: A LARR research forum. Latin American Research Review, 39(1), 183–201.
Hansen, K. T., Little, W. E., & Milgram, B. L. (Eds.). (2013). Street economies in the urban Global South. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.
Hart, K. (1973). Informal income opportunities and urban employment in Ghana. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 11(01), 61–89.
Holland, A. C. (2015). The distributive politics of enforcement. American Journal of Political Science., 59(2), 357–371.
Horn, P. (2011). Informal traders and the struggle to trade. In E. Cottle (Ed.) South Africa’s World Cup: A legacy for whom? Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Horne, J., & Manzenreiter, W. (2006). Underestimated costs and overestimated benefits? Comparing the outcomes of sports mega-events in Canada and Japan. The Sociological Review, 54(2), 71–89.
Hummel, C. (2018). Do poor citizens benefit from mega-events? São Paulo’s street vendors and the 2014 FIFA world cup. Latin American Politics and Society, 60(4), 26–48.
International Labor Organization. (2002). Decent Work and the Informal Economy. Report VI. International Labor Conference, Geneva, Switzerland.
Karaganis, J. (Ed.) (2011). Media Piracy in Emerging Economies. Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC). http://piracy.ssrc.org. Retrieved from on June 5, 2016.
Komarova, N. (2017). Ups and downs of art commerce: Narratives of “crisis” in the contemporary art markets of Russia and India. Theory and Society, 46(4), 319–352.
Lenskyj, H. (2012). Best Olympics Ever?, The Social Impacts of Sydney 2000. Albany: SUNY Press.
Lindell, I., Hedman, M., & Verboomen, K.-N. (2013). The World Cup 2010, “World Class Cities,” and Street Vendors in South Africa.” In K. T. Hansen, W. E. Little, & B. L. Milgram (Eds.). Street economies in the urban Global South (pp. 179-200). Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.
Lipovetsky, G. (2010). The Hyperconsumption society. In K. M. Ekström & K. Glans (Eds.), Beyond the consumption bubble (pp. 25–36). London: Routledge.
Nicas, J. (2018). How Facebook’s P.R. Firm Brought Political Trickery to Tech. New York Times, November 21. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/technology/definers-public-affairs-tim-miller.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage. Accessed on November 22, 2018.
Nun, J. (2000). The end of work and the “marginal mass” thesis. Latin American Perspectives, 27(1), 6–32.
Pamplona, J. B. (2013). Mercado De Trabalho, Informalidade E Comércio Ambulante Em São Paulo. Revista Brasileira de Estudos de Populacão, 30(1), 225–249.
Panja, T. (2017). As sponsors shy away, FIFA faces World Cup shortfall. New York Times, November 18. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/sports/soccer/world-cup-sponsors-russia-2018.html . Accessed on December 6, 2018.
Perlman, J. (2010). Favela: Four decades of living on the edge in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford University Press.
Portes, A., & Sassen-Koob, S. (1987). Making it underground: Comparative material on the informal sector in Western market economies. American Journal of Sociology, 93, 30–61.
Roberts, B. R. (2005). Globalization and Latin American cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(1), 110–123.
Roy, A., & AlSayyad, N. (Eds.) (2004). Urban informality : Transnational perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Sassen, S. (2014). Expulsions: Brutality and complexity in the global economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Tokman, V. E. (1978). An exploration into the nature of informal-formal sector relationships. World Development, 6(9), 1065–1075.
Tomaz, K. (2014). Policiamento da Copa começa a atuar nesta terça, diz PM. Jornal da Globo, G1. Accessed Oct. 28, 2015 (http://g1.globo.com/sao-paulo/noticia/2014/05/policiamento-da-copa-comeca-atuar-em-sao-paulo-nesta-terca-diz-pm.html).
Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Webster, F. (2014). Theories of the information society. London: Routledge.
I am grateful to Javier Auyero, Philip Balsiger, Fred Block, Ari Adut, Etienne Piguet, Daniel Powers, Philip Oxhorn, Bryan Roberts, Calla Hummel, and Nadya Guimarães for helpful comments and support. An earlier version of this article was presented in Neuchatel at the Rencontres Scientifiques de la MAPS. This research was supported by a studentship from the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, a Doc.Mobility grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation, and a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (#1434160).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Cuvi, J. Symbolic capital, informal labor, and postindustrial markets: the dynamics of street vending during the 2014 world cup in São Paulo. Theor Soc 48, 217–238 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-019-09344-6
- Intellectual property rights
- Social exclusion
- Sports mega-events
- Urban poverty