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'We're all Fairtrade consumers now!? An exploration of the meanings, moralities and politics of Fairtrade consumption

Wheeler, Kathryn (2010) 'We're all Fairtrade consumers now!? An exploration of the meanings, moralities and politics of Fairtrade consumption. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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The Fairtrade movement in the UK has witnessed impressive growth over the last ten years. Fairtrade products are now available beyond the dedicated network of church halls and Oxfam shops and through the mainstream retail sector. Whilst this growth has been widely represented as the result of thousands of individual citizen-consumers ?voting? for fairer trade, this thesis tells a different tale. Moving away from accounts of consumption that rely on models of conscious, expressive and reflexive choice, the study demonstrates the importance of paying attention to the increasing institutionalisation of forms of collective Fairtrade purchasing, as well as the ways in which orientations towards consumer goods are guided by levels of commitment to varied social practices. Based within a Fairtrade town ? a place with a community of Fairtrade supporters who are actively campaigning to switch the systems of collective provision within the town to Fairtrade-only lines ? and employing a range of mixed-method research techniques, this thesis uniquely pays attention to both the ?Fairtrade supporter? and the ?non-Fairtrade supporter?. In so doing it highlights why attempts to change people?s behaviour through the provision of information alone are unlikely to be successful. Consumers are not infinitely malleable and the practices that guide their routine consumption are supported by a whole range of collective structures, including cultural norms and discourses, institutional frameworks and infrastructures of provision. These are not easily transformed through interventions aimed at the individual level, in other words individuals? behaviours, attitudes and choices. The thesis also contributes to debates about levels and types of citizen-engagement, interrogating the assumption that those who do not engage in Fairtrade consumption behaviour are apathetic or lack certain types of knowledge. Instead the findings suggest that citizen-consumers are capable of expressing reasoned objections and scepticism to the model of individual responsibility that is being directed towards them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2017 13:18
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:44

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