Trade justice and individual consumption choices : Adam Smith's spectator theory and the moral constitution of the Fair Trade consumer
Watson, Matthew, 1969-. (2007) Trade justice and individual consumption choices : Adam Smith's spectator theory and the moral constitution of the Fair Trade consumer. European Journal of International Relations, Vol.13 (No.2). pp. 263-288. ISSN 1354-0661
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354066107076957
A consistent theme of the existing literature is that fair trade consumption practices represent acts of justice. In this article I investigate such an equation from the perspective of the moral theory of Adam Smith. Smith explains the development of moral sensibilities via an imaginative act he calls `sympathy'. For Smith, justice prevails in interpersonal relationships in which the potential for one person to do harm to another is ruled out because their respective imaginations are in perfect accord, thus creating a situation of mutual sympathy. I advance two main conclusions. First, I argue that fair trade consumption is undoubtedly a moral act in the manner described by Smith, as it involves consumers responding to fair trade campaigns in order to trigger their moral sensibilities through exercising their imaginative faculties. Second, though, I argue that fair trade consumption is not specifically a moral act of justice in the manner described by Smith. The structure of fair trade invites the First World consumer to display sympathy for the Third World producer, but it provides no means for that sympathy to be reciprocated. As such, instances of genuine mutual sympathy do not arise. From a Smithian perspective, fair trade consumption practices are an act of beneficence rather than an act of justice. They thereby reside in the realm of private virtue rather than the realm of public duty, with significant implications for the way in which trade justice is conceptualized and studied in IPE.
|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Subjects:||H Social Sciences > HF Commerce|
|Divisions:||Faculty of Social Sciences > Politics and International Studies|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Smith, Adam, 1723-1790, Anti-globalization movement, Consumption (Economics), International trade, Distributive justice|
|Journal or Publication Title:||European Journal of International Relations|
|Publisher:||Sage Publications Ltd.|
|Official Date:||June 2007|
|Page Range:||pp. 263-288|
|Access rights to Published version:||Open Access|
# Arrow, Kenneth (1979) `The Division of Labor in the Economy, the Polity, and Society', in Gerald O'Driscoll (ed.) Adam Smith and Modern Political Economy: Bicentennial Essays on The Wealth of Nations. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press: 153—64.
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