Arbitrating risk through moral values: the case of Kenyan fairtrade
Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility
ISBN: 978-1-84855-058-2, eISBN: 978-1-84855-059-9
Publication date: 1 September 2008
This chapter examines the Kenyan Fairtrade flower as a site of value making, one that provides a constructive lens into how moral obligation and ethical accountability are shaped by risk perceptions and become visible through the process of transnational commodity exchange. Specifically, it argues that while Fairtrade labeling responds to the risks of corporate capitalism through consumption practices predicated on extending care and compassion to distant communities, it is also embedded within commodity chains that advance liberal ethics as a mode of “governmentality” over African producers. These ethics are associated with new technologies of information gathering, regulation, and surveillance that simultaneously assuage consumers’ anxieties and channel their sympathy-based humanism into new forms of ethical normativity. Fairtrade's relational ethic, for example, is accompanied by a private regulatory assemblage that authorizes certain knowledge forms, thereby circumscribing the social and economic rights available as well as the form of personhood through which they can be claimed. Thus, although Fairtrade is cast as morally unproblematic, it can also serve as a mechanism through which specific interests are naturalized and circulated through a benevolent vernacular of economic and social rights.
Dolan, C.S. (2008), "Arbitrating risk through moral values: the case of Kenyan fairtrade", De Neve, G., Peter, L., Pratt, J. and Wood, D.C. (Ed.) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 271-296. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-1281(08)28012-1
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