Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 219–239 | Cite as

Fair Trade: Dynamic and Dilemmas of a Market Oriented Global Social Movement

  • John Wilkinson
Original paper


Fair Trade is analysed as a new economic social movement to the extent that it is based on new forms of collective action and directs its demands primarily to the market rather than to the State. In addition, it is intrinsically a global movement harnessing development goals to new market relations. It differs, however, from similar movements (organics, animal welfare) to the extent that it focuses primarily on traditional issues of redistributive justice rather than a new generation of rights and duties. Fair Trade is understood as having three components: (i) the organization of alternative trading networks; (ii) the marketing of Fair Trade labelled products through licensed conventional traders and retailers; and (iii) the campaign-based promotion of Fair Trade to change both purchasing practices and the rules of conventional trade. As a market oriented movement, Fair Trade relies crucially on the emergence of a new politicization of consumer activity comprising not only “consumer-activists” but also the State as consumer and a new layer of political consumers sensitive to issues of social justice in their daily purchasing practices.


Fair Trade New economic social movement Consumer-oriented social movement Social justice through markets Southern Fair Trade 



I would like to thank the Edelstein Center for Social Research, Rio de Janeiro, the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies, Colorado State University, and colleagues and students working in the research unit “Markets, Networks and Values” of the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq), which I have the privilege of coordinating, for providing ideal intellectual and material conditions for the development of the reflections contained in this text. Special thanks go to the comments of the editors and reviewers which have led to substantial improvements in the final version of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Centre: Development, Agriculture and SocietyRural Federal University, Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil

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