The fair trade coffee movement: norm change or niche marketing?

Tarmann, Kevin Francis, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Smith, Michael, E0:AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Thompson, Kenneth W., Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Brement, Marshall, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Most scholarship on international norms focuses on how states effect or are affected by norm change, implicitly assuming that the state arena is where the struggle for norm change must ultimately be conducted. This dissertation seeks to build on the latest, less state-centric research by Keck, and Sikkink (1998) and Finnemore and Sikkink (1998) on norms, their role in political change, and what these scholars hypothesize have evolved to advance the process of norm change in an increasingly globalized society, transnational advocacy networks. This project assesses the efforts and achievements of the fair trade coffee movement — a paradigmatic example of a transnational advocacy network — to effect behavior and norm change not through state-backing but by venturing into the global marketplace to redefine what constitutes "fair" trade by mobilizing information strategically to persuade and pressure businesses and consumers directly, deliberately bypassing formal political channels. An introduction reviews the relevant literature and makes the case for studying transnational advocacy networks. Chapters 1-3 provide a general history of coffee its origins, spread around the world, close connection to important trends, events, and nations in international politics. Chapter 4 describes the origins of the fair trade coffee movement and the specific goals, strategies, and tactics it employs. Chapter 5 empirically assesses the fair trade coffee movement's achievements in Europe in general and in the United States in particular, finding fair trade coffee enjoying a rapid increase in sales and public awareness but a still tiny (less than 1 percent) share of the overall market. Among the conclusions reached about the process of norm change in contemporary global politics: states and multilateral institutions remain overwhelmingly preeminent; the predominance and persistence of the existing norms on what production considerations are "fair" remain a formidable obstacle to the emergence of a new norm; the role of NGOs in global norm change has evolved in format but not substantially changed in content; and, the slight shift in overall demand in favor of fair trade coffee does not speak to whether or to what extent the change is motivated by principled concerns rather than material interests or other considerations.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: