The global circulation of food and agricultural commodities is increasingly influenced by the ethical choices of Western consumers and activists who want to see a socially and environmentally sustainable trade regime in place. These desires have culminated in the formation of an elaborate system of rules, which govern the physical and social conditions of food production and circulation, reflected in transnational ethical regimes such as fair trade. Fair trade operates through certifying producer communities with sustainable production methods and socially just production relationships. By examining interdisciplinary academic engagements with fair trade, we argue that fair trade certification is a transnational bio-political regime; although, it holds the potential for reflecting global counterpolitics. By reviewing the literature on the emergence and history of fair trade certification, agro-food chains, case studies on certified producer communities and the certification process, this article shows that fair trade certification is a new governing mechanism to discipline farmers and producers in the Global South by drawing them into globalized market relationships. However, recent studies suggest that fair trade also leaves open the potential for creative iterations of the fair trade idea in producer communities to give voice to their situated struggles for justice. Thus, fair trade constitutes a contested moral terrain that mediates between the visions of justice harbored by producers and activists in the Global South and reflexive practices of the Western consumers. To map these critical developments around fair trade and fair trade certification, close ethnographic attention to the material and symbolic life of certification is vital.
Promises, Pitfalls, and Possibilities
Debarati Sen and Sarasij Majumder
African Trade and Chinese Oil Production in Western Chad
The oil industry tends to remain disconnected from local realities surrounding production sites, a situation that can be explained by theories of enclaving and technological zones. Despite these barriers, local people try to connect to and profit from oil projects that are set up in their vicinity. This article explores the relationships between a Chadian merchant, who started as a worker in the oil fields, his suppliers of goods and credit, and a Chinese oil company. The analysis focuses on the improvisation that the merchant and his Chinese clients undertook in order to develop trade in a difficult supply situation. The African system of trade enabled the Chinese company to overcome challenges to its project, while helping the merchant convert oil money into commercial capital.
British Commerce and Trade in Siberia in the Early Twentieth Century
This article looks at the prospects and the reality of British commercial activity in Siberia in the early twentieth century, before the outbreak of World War I, and is based on contemporary comments by travelers, businessmen, and commercial agents. Contemporaries agreed that the dynamic Siberian economy opened up opportunities for British exports and trade. British firms, however, lagged behind commercial rivals, in particular in Germany, and the United States. The article explores the reasons for this and also looks at the subjects of the British Empire who went to Siberia and the conditions under which they worked. The article demonstrates the vibrancy of Siberian economic development in this period and the active participation of Western powers in this process.
Participating in and Witnessing Fair Trade and Women’s Empowerment in Transnational Communities of Practice
The popularity of fair trade products has engendered new possibilities for consumer citizens in the global North to demonstrate solidarity with producers in the global South. Fair trade enthusiasts not only buy labelled products as an act of solidarity with producers in Darjeeling’s tea plantations; but also extend their affective solidarity by voluntarily visiting certified production sites to witness how fair trade affects workers’ livelihoods. Fair trade as transnational praxis has inadvertently pushed justice seeking and delivery to a non-state sphere that is not accountable to the workers in terms of citizenship rights; however, it must address the bargaining power of producers since wages and benefits are baseline determinants of quality of life. Fair trade-engendered solidarity practices erase the complex history of workers’ struggle with the state and established systems of power through collective bargaining. These acts in turn produce new kinds of transnational praxis affecting the plantation public sphere.
The French monarchy's determination to suspend the trading rights of the Compagnie des Indes in 1769 stimulated a lively public debate over the establishment of commercial liberty in the Indies trade. Since mid-century, Vincent de Gournay and his disciples had advocated increased liberty in French commerce, and the Compagnie des Indes' privileged trading monopoly offered a tempting target for these reformers. Working on behalf of the ministry, the abbé Morellet undertook the task of convincing public opinion of the benefits that liberty of commerce in the Indies trade would bring to France. However, the company's principal banker Jacques Necker and physiocrat Pierre-Samuel Dupont raised serious doubts concerning both the feasibility and the value of such reform. These critiques challenged any expectation that commercial liberty would increase French strength in the Indies trade or contest British political hegemony in India after the Seven Years' War.
All communities of practice must face questions relating to the material economic foundations of future sustainable societies. David Graeber, Karl Polanyi and Karl Marx each have produced typologies of possible types of economy, synthesised as: (1) the principle of individual reciprocity, (2) the market principle of capitalism, and (3) the planning principle of the state. I apply this synthesis to recent proposals for community change advanced by Bill McKibben and David Korten concerning economic scale and the re-localising of production and consumption sundered by globalisation, focused on the local exchange and trading system (LETS). The operationalising of LETS draws upon Adam Smith’s view of markets as face-to-face exchanges of goods taking place in small morality-bound communities. Smith, McKibben and Korten conflate two different meanings of the term ‘exchange’. To understand the role LETS may play in future sustainable economies in communities of practice demands treatment of this problem.
Anna Scolobig, Luigi Pellizzoni and Chiara Bianchizza
There is an increasing demand for improvement of the quality of decisions about flood risk mitigation by fostering public participation in decision-making. However, the extent and way in which formalized participation guarantees good outcomes is still a matter of discussion. This article analyzes different approaches to decision-making for flood risk mitigation by comparing two experiences in the Italian Alps. In Vipiteno-Sterzing, decisions were made by involving citizens in a structured participatory process. In Malborghetto-Valbruna, a formally technocratic (yet substantially inclusive) approach was adopted after the flood that affected the municipality in 2003. Our results critically review the perspective that structured participation is always something "good." In this regard, the way relevant trade-offs between public and private goods were acknowledged and dealt with turned out to be crucial. At the same time, effective participation is closely related to citizens' actual engagement, institutional responsiveness to residents' needs and expectations, and the capacity to harmonize different views and types of knowledge in the development of risk mitigation options. Policy context, choice of approach and quality of outcomes appear as "nested" issues. Further research is needed in order to assess different experiences of decision-making and to set robust conditions for better outcomes in public participation.
Fernando R. Tesón
I agree with many of the theses advanced by Darrel Moellendorf in his important book. The book covers just about every single issue in international ethics: an individualist theory of sovereignty; an essentially Rawlsian philosophical methodology; the justice of immigration and trade controls; the justice of intervention and war; and a theory of global equality of opportunity. Moellendorf proposes a world of liberal separate states (similar to my own proposal)1 but committed to a scheme of non-statist global redistribution run by a sort of international agency. He thus joins other liberal commentators who have reacted to John Rawls’ rejection of principles of global socioeconomic justice.2 As is well known, Rawls’ principles of international justice are anti-cosmopolitan, not just in the sense that worries Moellendorf, that is, of eschewing global redistribution of wealth, but also in the area of human rights, where Rawls has essentially renounced global liberalism.3 Moellendorf believes, like those other liberal critics, that Rawls is wrong and justice requires transfers of wealth from citizens in rich countries to those in poor countries.
Risk and Sociocultural Theory: New Directions and Perspectives. Edited by Deborah Lupton Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, ix, 185pp., paperback £19.99. ISBN 0-521-64554-9.
Trade and Trade-offs: Using Resources, Making Choices, and Taking Risks. By Estellie Smith. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 2000, x, 185pp., glossary, annotated bibliogr., paperback $20.95. ISBN: 1-57766-092-7.
Hitting the Jackpot: Lives of Lottery Millionaires. By Pasi Falk and Pasi Maenpaa. Oxford: Berg, 1999, 168pp., appendices, bibliogr., £15.99. ISBN 9781859733059.
V. A. Skubnevskii and lu. M. Goncharov
This article traces developments in Siberian trade and manufacturing in the period between the emancipation of the serfs and the early 1900s. Particular emphasis is placed on the evolving nature and role of the guild merchants. Attention is devoted to social change among the merchants, including education and their significance in local government and philanthropy.