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The purpose of the article is to move beyond positivistic political economy analysis of fair trade, and to examine competitive dynamics between competing interpretations…
The purpose of the article is to move beyond positivistic political economy analysis of fair trade, and to examine competitive dynamics between competing interpretations in terms of the very fair trade concept itself.
Grounded in an ideational ontology, the paper provides a theoretical framework concerned with the contestation of meaning. Analysis applies this framework through a heuristic reading of fair trade's history, drawing on secondary literature, documents and primary qualitative research; and the discursive construction of Fair for Life – a new programme seeking to negotiate the “constitutive rules” of fair trade.
The article identifies that the history of fair trade and its current competitive dynamics are constituted by a negotiation and contestation of the constitutive rules that set the parameters of the fair trade concept.
The paper complements political economy analysis of socially constructed governance such as fair trade, and adds value to academic analysis by exposing important, yet previously unconsidered, micro‐politics of language and practice. The description and initial analysis of “Fair for Life” opens a new area of empirical interest for scholars of fair trade and sustainability governance.
Analysis highlighting the important implication of discourse and practice for the very definition of fair trade offers practitioners important insights into little considered implication of their practices and their representations in language.
The article complements political economy analysis by demonstrating the value of an ideationally grounded analysis of fair trade and similar socially constructed governance systems.