Fair Trade and Neoliberalism: Assessing Emerging Perspectives

Gavin Fridell
Publication Date: 
Emerging perspectives on the fair-trade network can be grouped into three broad categories on the basis of their overarching assumptions.
The “shaped-advantage” perspective depicts fair trade as a project that assists local groups in developing capacities to help offset the negative impact of globalization. The “alternative” perspective depicts fair trade as an alternative model of globalization that, in contrast to the neoliberal paradigm, seeks to “include” the poorest sectors in the purported benefits of international trade. The “decommodification” perspective portrays fair trade as a challenge to the commodification of goods under global capitalism. The grouping that least reflects the full aims of the network, the shaped-advantage perspective, most accurately reflects fair trade’s overall impact. This raises concerns about the ability of fair traders to achieve their objectives within the market-based model they have developed.