Shopping for Human Rights. An Introduction to the Special Issue
Globalization, free trade, and individualization have opened up a worldwide marketplace for trading goods. The fair trade movement and other political consumerist endeavours view consumers as important active holders of responsibility for global welfare. Civil society and governments strive to teach consumers how political consumerism can be used as a push factor to change market capitalism. The market itself can also create an interest in political consumerism and, thereby, teach consumers about the political responsibility embedded in their shopping choices. When this happens, the market works as a pull factor for securing human rights. Questions can be raised about the significance of political consumers as a way to solve complex global problems. Political consumerism may be a fair-weather option that loses its attractiveness in times of downward private and corporate economic spirals. Parts of the fair trade movement believe that there are problems with sole reliance on voluntary consumer choice and using personal money and private capital to solve human rights problems by shopping them away. The exponential growth of voluntary codes of corporate conduct and labelling schemes has also created contradictory practices, incoherence in efforts, and superficial changes or what activists call “sweatwash.” Increasingly, many actors call on international law to create new standards that apply direct human rights obligations on corporations. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007
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