“Consumer power”

the other day I went to an academic talk on global corporate power . . .great insights on how national laws serve the beast to abuse and let the abusers to escape, to exploit and let the exploiters escape . . .it would have been worthwhile to take some notes, but I did not have my notebook with me . . .what stroke me was the ending . . .someone asked the professor what is to be done to deal with all these tales of horrors we are growing accustomed to . . . she candidly replied that we should use that great power of ours that she called “consumer power” . . . some of the people in the audience nodded, yes, what a great power that is: buy ethical, buy sustainable, buy fair trade . . .it is a power that allows us to meet half the way with capital, clear our conscious of guilty feelings, exercise our power in the form compatible with market relations . . .but fair trade is more expensive, and consumer power is power exercised by individuals with budget constraints, hence to allow this power to grow and massify we need either to see an increase in wages and salaries “for the many and not for the few” (to abuse a new Labour slogan) or . . .cheapen fair trade products . . .the former is not happening, signs of the latter are already visible for some time in my local supermarket . . .there, the Nicaragian fair trade coffee is on offer (three for the price of two), and the resulting cheap price made me buy it . . .while I feel sorry for the Costa Rican children who are trying to convince me to fund their school instead by buying their fair trade coffee sitting next to the Nicaraguan one I have just thrown in the trolley . . .consumer power is nonsense, it reproduces a system that pits livelihoods against one another . . .

it goes without saying however that “fair trade” as developed withtin global antagonist networks is another matter . . .here we are not only acting as consumers, but as co-producers of different livelihoods and aspirations. . .

Comments are closed.