Think locally, act globally: The political economy of ethical consumption

in Geert De Neve, Luetchford Peter, Jeffrey Pratt, Donald C. Wood (ed.) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, Volume 28) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.31 - 51

James G. Carrier, 2008

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Summary :

Ethical consumption exemplifies thinking locally and acting globally, and the political economy in which it exists makes its ethics problematic. This chapter uses ecotourism to illustrate two aspects of thinking locally in ethical consumption. One is the local institutions and practices that this form of consumption reflects, embodied in the Western commercial capitalism that provides what Westerners consume ethically. Ethical consumption extends the reach of that local capital and its logic. The second is the local understandings and values it reflects, embodied in the desires of ethical consumers and met by commodity producers and the institutions that influence them. Ethical consumption does not, however, only impose local institutions and values globally; but it also shapes local consumers, by portraying individual market choice as an appropriate vehicle for bringing about an ethical world, thereby diverting attention from other sorts of ethical action.

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