The interstices of globalization: the example of fair trade coffee

Marie-Christine Renard
Publication Date: 
This paper analyses the process of globalization of agriculture and food. Its aim is to demonstrate that, inside of the homogeneous mainstream tendencies of this process dominated by transnational interests, interstices appear that open the way for small producers and middlemen developing certain products on the basis of specific qualities. Those interstices are made possible by the emergence of new patterns of consumption based on new socially shared values.
The paper illustrates the argumentation with the case of the fair trade coffee network, which links producers from the ‘South’ with consumers in the ‘North’ around the values of solidarity and fairness. Because the network introduces the fair trade coffee into the large marketing channels in some European countries, it is built on the convergence of various interests among the agents involved in the filière. The paper analyses the ambivalence of the strategy that responds to market logic although it is also based on ethical principles. It finally raises questions about strategies based on specific qualities in the post-Fordist era.