Towards a Fair Global Economic Regime? A critical assessment of Fair Trade through the examination of the Argentinean wine industry
By Juan Ignacio Staricco
This dissertation offers an assessment of Fair Trade’s transformative potential through an empirical examination of the case of Fair Trade wine produced in Argentina and consumed in the United Kingdom. Guided by a dialectical understanding of the research process, the analysis is done at various levels of generality, offering both case-specific and universal arguments about the Fair Trade system as a whole. Theoretically, the dissertation develops a regulationist framework based on a critical engagement with the French Regulation Approach and the Amsterdam Project in International Political Economy. The proposed analysis of Fair Trade as a ‘mode of regulation’ makes possible: (i) an examination of specific ways in which this initiative institutionalizes key socioeconomic relations, (ii) a comparison of Fair Trade with the ‘conventional’ economy and (iii) a discussion of its concrete effects. The further exploration of Fair Trade’s political and ideological dimensions sheds light on the reasons behind the system’s current limitations. The analysis shows that Fair Trade offers very limited improvements compared to the conventional economy. Additionally, for the Argentinean wine industry, Fair Trade further marginalizes the most vulnerable groups. These findings, it is argued, are a consequence of Fair Trade’s acritical acceptance of the main capitalist contradictions, which importantly limit the transformative aspirations of its supporters.