Fair trade has made paying producers in poorer countries a “just” price one of its central aims, with the issue constantly in its public communiqués, from the print media…
Fair trade has made paying producers in poorer countries a “just” price one of its central aims, with the issue constantly in its public communiqués, from the print media to social networking sites. As most research has looked at fair trade in the South, where small producers and craft makers live, discussions of the fair price have centered on whether the wholesale prices paid to them are alleviating poverty. However, circumscribing the issue of the fair price only to its impact in the South impedes our understanding of how fair trade operates in the North, on which the system relies for its existence. Looking at fair trade from a Northern perspective, this paper sees the fair price as a partial illustration of the social processes that characterize reflexive modernity, particularly the ethical dilemmas that surround the composition of prices. But rather than focusing exclusively on activist discourse, the paper uses practice theory to build a more nuanced picture of the diverse beliefs and behaviors that the fair price is entangled with. Drawing on ethnography with people who consume and sell fair trade in the Italian city of Palermo, the paper shows how understanding what a fair price is appears to be an enigma that conceals different aspects of the fair trade network. Specifically, it reveals that the fair price is not a single but a double entity, comprising the wholesale price paid to producers, where “political” emphasis usually lies, and the fair retail price, an entity discussed far less often.
Four years ago I co-edited a book with Geert De Neve and two of his colleagues at the University of Sussex – Jeff Pratt and Peter Luetchford. The chapters had originally been presented at the Hidden Hands in the Market workshop held at Sussex in April of 2007 and organized by Geert, Jeff, and Peter. After hearing about the workshop I wrote to Geert, hoping to scoop up a few bits of gold for REA, but as it turned out I had struck the mother lode. Our co-edited book was Volume 28 of REA – Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (2008) – one of the installments that I remain proudest of, and the first REA volume under Emerald with which I was directly involved. The volume explores the relationship between producers and consumers, focusing on its moral and political content, in a very broad sense.
This paper investigates rose and rose oil production in the province of Isparta, Turkey, with reference to the discourses on and procedures of price formation. Farmers…
This paper investigates rose and rose oil production in the province of Isparta, Turkey, with reference to the discourses on and procedures of price formation. Farmers have been engaging in rose cultivation for over a century and rose oil production is considered to be a traditional industry. The market actors for rose oil are global cosmetic and local processing firms and almost all rose oil from Isparta is exported. Prices and production have been steadily increasing since 2010. Although prices are seen as good, there are concerns about overproduction and fierce competition between the rose oil firms to buy the harvest, hence pushing up rose prices and, leading to a crash in rose oil prices on the world market. Through careful observation of payment and price formation procedures, the paper raises issues concerning the moral economy of price formation. Findings are provisional and the research is on-going, but the discourse on just prices clearly suggests that value judgments are embedded in and implicitly critical of capitalist markets.
The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was the most deadly disaster in garment manufacturing history, with at least 1,134 people killed…
The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was the most deadly disaster in garment manufacturing history, with at least 1,134 people killed and hundreds injured. In 2015, injured workers and the families of those killed received compensation from global apparel brands through a US$30 million voluntary initiative known as the Rana Plaza Arrangement. Overseen by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Rana Plaza Arrangement awarded payments to survivors using a pricing formula developed by a diverse team of ‘stakeholders’ that included labour groups, multinational apparel companies, representatives of the Bangladesh government and local employers, and ILO actuaries. This paper draws from anthropological scholarship on the ‘just price’ to explore how a formula for pricing death and injury became both the means and form of a fragile political settlement in the wake of a shocking and widely publicised industrial disaster. By unpacking the complicated ‘ethics of a formula’ (Ballestero, 2015), I demonstrate how the project of creating a just price involves not two sets of values (ethical and financial) but rather multiple, competing values. This paper argues for recognition of the persistence and power of these competing values, showing how they variously strengthen and undermine the claim that justice was served by the Rana Plaza Arrangement. This analysis reveals the deficiencies of counterposing ‘morality’ and ‘economy’ in the study of price by reflecting upon all elements of price as situated within political economy and history.
By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted amongst waste-pickers and recycling traders in the waste paper, plastic and scrap metal sectors, and engaging with…
By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted amongst waste-pickers and recycling traders in the waste paper, plastic and scrap metal sectors, and engaging with literature from economic anthropology and history, as well as archival sources, this paper documents changing perceptions of just price, morality and fairness in the Turkish recycling market. The paper suggests that multiple markets imply multiple prices, which are contingent and contested. When dealing with price mechanisms largely outside their control, actors tend to associate a fair price with the going market price, rather than factors such as state regulation. Approaches to morality and assessments of fairness become more ambiguous when prices are mediated by actors’ own practices. These range from gift relations to paternalism, envy and deception.
This paper documents the case of La Verde, a producer cooperative in Andalusia, Southern Spain, whose members grow and sell organic fruit and vegetables. Fieldwork data…
This paper documents the case of La Verde, a producer cooperative in Andalusia, Southern Spain, whose members grow and sell organic fruit and vegetables. Fieldwork data reveal a range of assessments and practices with respect to just price. Historical experiences of working as day laborers, with little access to cash or other resources informs the members’ radical political views on money, prices, and markets. These ideas modulate exchanges at the local level, and in their political networks. However, working their own land and selling a prized product allows them to generate good market returns from private shopkeepers in cities. The paper proposes that for a price to be considered just, criteria for commensuration, or equivalence between a price and the perceived value of an object must adhere, but adjudications about this vary according to the relationship between exchangers. Rather than an objective just price, the paper considers assessments and judgments about the relation between prices and justice to be contextually defined, contested, and negotiated.