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What can sociology say about FairTrade? Class, reflexivity and ethical consumption

SAGE Publications
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  • L300 Sociology
  • Philosophy


This article critically considers the `fit' between FairTrade consumption and conceptualizations of the reflexive project of selfhood. By outlining the ways in which FairTrade products are marketed, we argue that a particular and partial reflexivity is invoked and mobilized. Following from recent class debates which apply a Bourdieusian analysis to explore the operations of everyday class distinctions, we explore what such an analysis can offer to the project of critically mapping out the dynamics of this particular reflexivity and ethical consumption. However, FairTrade's emphasis on `just' consumption and invocation of a deserving farmer/worker allows some scope for problematization here too. By turning to an emerging literature on the `moral economy' we reach past the homogenizing tendency in some `new' class analyses to suggest possibilities both for a psychosocial imagining of ethical consumption and for fleshing out the conceptualization of a `situated reflexivity' demanded by recent social theory.

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