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Always on the lookout for good material for the REA series, at the end of March, 2007, I contacted Geert De Neve about a workshop he and his colleagues, Peter Luetchford and Jeffrey Pratt, were preparing to host in late April at the University of Sussex. Word of the workshop had initially come to me via the Society for Economic Anthropology Listserv months earlier. At the time I was tied up with Volume 26, a health-related installment, and so had only hoped to pick up a few quality papers for a later volume, thinking that they could perhaps be grouped into a special section together. Fortunately, however, I got much more.
The first theme is the “problem” of personal relations in the economy. Under neo-liberalism the Market is treated as universal, a trans-historical and trans-cultural…
The first theme is the “problem” of personal relations in the economy. Under neo-liberalism the Market is treated as universal, a trans-historical and trans-cultural entity; it is naturalised and reified, rather than thought of as a set of social relations; it is treated as a given rather than the result of a historical process with complex social actors. This view of the Market dovetails with a particular understanding of the individual, as driven primarily by a (universal and naturalised) desire to maximise material well-being and seek out value for money, while an “invisible hand,” rather than known personal needs, provides the mechanism to relate supply to demand.
Concern about the agro-industrial food system has generated movements, which reconnect producers and consumers, either through alternative distribution networks or through…
Concern about the agro-industrial food system has generated movements, which reconnect producers and consumers, either through alternative distribution networks or through providing histories of each quality foodstuff. Although these movements share a romantic discourse, they have a range of objectives and a more complex relationship to the mainstream than first appears. The article analyses particularly the concept of authenticity, first in representations of food, then more widely as a value which links production and consumption. The material illustrates a wider analysis (in Graeber, Harvey) of the co-existence of monetary and non-monetary value in an economy dominated by the commodity form, and following from this sets out the different judgements, which have been made about the transformative political potential of these movements.
Fair trade commonly focuses on the figure of the smallholding peasant producer. The effectiveness of this as a strategy lies in the widespread appeal of an economy based…
Fair trade commonly focuses on the figure of the smallholding peasant producer. The effectiveness of this as a strategy lies in the widespread appeal of an economy based upon independent family producers trying to secure livelihoods in impersonal and exploitative global commodity markets. But the attempt by fair trade to personalise economic relationships between coffee producers and consumers diverts attention away from aspects of the political economy of production for the market. This chapter examines a rural Costa Rican coffee economy that has supplied fair trade markets since the 1980s. Documenting differences in landholdings, the range of activities farmers engage in, and the relationship between landowners and landless labourers, women, and migrant harvesters from Nicaragua reveals differentiation and tensions that are obscured in the “smallholder” model invoked by fair trade.
Ethical consumption exemplifies thinking locally and acting globally, and the political economy in which it exists makes its ethics problematic. This chapter uses…
Ethical consumption exemplifies thinking locally and acting globally, and the political economy in which it exists makes its ethics problematic. This chapter uses ecotourism to illustrate two aspects of thinking locally in ethical consumption. One is the local institutions and practices that this form of consumption reflects, embodied in the Western commercial capitalism that provides what Westerners consume ethically. Ethical consumption extends the reach of that local capital and its logic. The second is the local understandings and values it reflects, embodied in the desires of ethical consumers and met by commodity producers and the institutions that influence them. Ethical consumption does not, however, only impose local institutions and values globally; but it also shapes local consumers, by portraying individual market choice as an appropriate vehicle for bringing about an ethical world, thereby diverting attention from other sorts of ethical action.
In the United States, the increasing availability of hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide-free food is largely limited by price and proximity to the upper and middle…
In the United States, the increasing availability of hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide-free food is largely limited by price and proximity to the upper and middle classes. Similarly, the burgeoning of urban farmers’ markets and other direct marketing venues tend to benefit those who can afford locally raised food. Attempts to rectify this disparity are underway in the movement to link small farmers with residents of low-income neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky's largest city. Incipient commercialization and processing channels are intended to aid area farmers as they make the difficult transition out of tobacco dependency, and simultaneously to provide people living in Louisville's food deserts with affordable, locally produced foods. In this activist marketplace, symbiotic and trusting relationships are essential. I explore these issues through a case study of a new farmer–owner food distribution business, one designed to profit while growing the local food system.