The right to shine: Poverty, consumption and (de) politicization in neoliberal Brazil

Rosana Pinheiro Machado, Lucia Mury Scalco

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This article discusses the political impacts on the poor’s subjectivity provoked by neoliberal policies such as inclusion through consumption in 21st century Brazil. From 2009 to 2014, we carried out ethnographic research with new consumers in a low-income neighbourhood – Morro da Cruz – in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. We argue that consumption does not necessarily depoliticize human experience, as it is broadly assumed to have done in the scholarly literature on neoliberalism. In a society in which the poor has obtained goods through hierarchical and servile relationships, the possibility of buying things provides a micro sphere for recognition, though not in terms of classic collective action or even hidden subversion. Coupled with the momentum towards a national ‘economic emergence’, status goods became vehicles of an emergent subjectivity, which we conceptualize as ‘the right to shine’. The right to shine are subtle forms of class and racial self-worth, and individual and interpersonal empowerment that revealed interclass defiance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-330
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number2
Early online date22 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2023


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