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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.
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.
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.
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.