9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Economic and Political Aspects of Consumption Building II, C5.02

Political Consumerism or Political Co-optation? Mediating and Mainstreaming Fair Trade

This presentation explores the processes through which the Fair Trade cause has been communicated in the UK in such a way that it has been pulled from its niche status to a mainstream presence. A revolution in the marketplace has been foretold (cf. Boyle, 2005; Micheletti et al, 2006) and awareness of the Fairtrade Mark consumer label is now argued to be evident in 70% of the UK adult population, but the consequences for citizenship still to be examined. By looking at the mainstreaming of fair trade I draw conclusions about the contemporary nature of consumer citizenship and the tensions involved in acting politically in the marketplace. I argue that there is a certain 'co-optation' of citizenship by its commercial enactment. While this varies according to the degree of commitment, further engagement and prior knowledge this type of citizenship mostly concerns citizen consumers and the focus remains on the second part, which is that of the consumer.