Justice, Sustainability, and the Fair Trade Movement: A Case Study of Coffee Production in Chiapas

Mark Hudson and Ian Hudson
Publication Date: 
This article provides a brief backgrounder on Chiapas in the context of globalization and the international coffee trade.
We look at the redistributive aspect of the fair trade system: how fair trade attempts to circumvent the unequal trading relationships of the world market by offering "fair" prices to certain kinds of producer groups. This is the most publicized and transparent aspect of fair trade. The next section examines the productive relations that are supported by the fair trade system. Fair trade is explicitly committed to the support of producers growing coffee in certain ways, involving certain relations of production, and within the framework of a larger development scheme. Finally, we introduce the ecological aspect of fair trade, looking at two very different ecologies of coffee production. The first is a product of capitalist forms of production, fully integrated and dependent on world commodity markets, and characterized by what Wright (1978: 73) outlines as the "three central processes underlying the basic capital-labor relationship: control over the physical means of production; control over labor power; control over investments and resource allocation.