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Resistance, redistribution, and power in the Fair Trade banana initiative

Abstract

The Fair Trade movement seeks to alter conventional trade relations through a system of social and environmental standards, certification, and labels designed to help shorten the social distance between consumers in the North and producers in the South. The strategy is based on working both ‘in and against’ the same global capitalist market that it hopes to alter, raising questions about if and how Fair Trade initiatives exhibit counter-hegemonic potential to transform the conventional agro-food system. This paper considers the multiple levels at which Fair Trade alternatives operate to identify the different forms of social action that the movement engages with, and to clarify where the movement’s counter-hegemonic potentials are being realized. I suggest the Fair Trade movement is most successful in encouraging consumers and producers to commit acts of resistance and in supporting redistributive action that shifts resources from North to South. Up to now, however, Fair Trade alternatives appear to hold only a theoretical potential to provoke transformative change in the agro-food system. A reconceptualization of the Fair Trade model and how it is implemented could allow it to manifest more of its implicit, oppositional promise.

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Correspondence to Aimee Shreck.

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Aimee Shreckis a sociologist and the Research Specialist for the California Faculty Association. Her previous work as a postdoctoral researcher with the University of California, Berkeley and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program focused on social justice, sustainable agriculture, and fair trade.

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Shreck, A. Resistance, redistribution, and power in the Fair Trade banana initiative. Agric Hum Values 22, 17–29 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-004-7227-y

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Keywords

  • Alternative agriculture
  • Alternative food systems
  • Alternative trade
  • Counter-hegemonic movements
  • Fair Trade