Global fair trade: Humanizing globalization and reintroducing the normative to international political economy

Candace Archer and Stefan Fritsch
Publication Date: 
Since the mid-1990s fair trade has gained consumers and public attention, but IPE scholars have had little to say about this new phenomenon. Since the fair trade concept is based on consumer behavior that incorporates moral and ethical choices, it can not easily be explained by mainstream IPE theories which are predominantly based on the rational actor model.
This paper examines the fair trade movement, discusses its history, its impressive growth and the ethical and social agenda it promotes. Fair trade is an anomaly that cannot be explained by mainstream rationalist ontologies. Instead, we argue, IPE theories need to consider classical political economy works which reveal many valuable insights regarding moral and/or ethical concerns. By reintroducing normative considerations fair trade can reconnect consumer and producer, move our theories beyond merely rationalist ontologies and humanize globalization.