Shopping for Human Rights. An Introduction to the Special Issue
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Globalization, free trade, and individualization have opened up a worldwide marketplace for trading goods. The fair trade movement and other political consumerist endeavours view consumers as important active holders of responsibility for global welfare. Civil society and governments strive to teach consumers how political consumerism can be used as a push factor to change market capitalism. The market itself can also create an interest in political consumerism and, thereby, teach consumers about the political responsibility embedded in their shopping choices. When this happens, the market works as a pull factor for securing human rights. Questions can be raised about the significance of political consumers as a way to solve complex global problems. Political consumerism may be a fair-weather option that loses its attractiveness in times of downward private and corporate economic spirals. Parts of the fair trade movement believe that there are problems with sole reliance on voluntary consumer choice and using personal money and private capital to solve human rights problems by shopping them away. The exponential growth of voluntary codes of corporate conduct and labelling schemes has also created contradictory practices, incoherence in efforts, and superficial changes or what activists call “sweatwash.” Increasingly, many actors call on international law to create new standards that apply direct human rights obligations on corporations.
KeywordsPolitical consumerism Political responsibility Obligations of justice Fair trade movement Resistance micro-politics Human rights
A special issue is an example of successful scholarly collective action. We would like to thank all the anonymous reviewers who have graciously given of their time to offer their judgments on articles submitted to the call for papers and constructive criticisms on the articles published in this issue. We would also like to thank Folke Ölander, former editor of the Journal of Consumer Policy, for proposing that we undertake a special issue on political consumerism and for accepting our suggestion that it concerns “shopping for human rights.” Folke has closely followed our work as guest editors. He has offered advice on suitable reviewers for certain of the submissions and given comments about paper revision, has served as an efficient and excellent copy-editor, and very importantly, has given us professional encouragement that has made the assignment as guest editors an enjoyable and a learning experience.
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