Protecting the Environment the Natural Way: Ethical Consumption and Commodity Fetishism

Antipode (Impact Factor: 2.15). 05/2010; 42(3):672 - 689. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00768.x

ABSTRACT   One of the ways that conservation and capitalism intersect is in ethical consumption, the shaping of purchasing decisions by an evaluation of the moral attributes of objects on offer. It is increasingly important as a way that people think that they can affect the world around them, including protecting the natural environment. This paper describes commodity fetishism in ethical consumption, and the degree to which this fetishism makes it difficult for ethical consumers to be effective both in their evaluation of objects on offer and in influencing the world around them. It looks at three forms of fetishism in ethical consumption: fetishism of objects, fetishism of the purchase and consumption of objects, fetishism of nature.

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    ABSTRACT: This paper uses the example of Slow Food International (SFI) and its promotion of artisanal cheese to examine how scale is produced around the defense of particular social relations of production. I argue that attempts by SFI to naturalize discursive configurations of rural/local/traditional express a particular politics tied to the anxiety of 'losing' imagined rural communities. However, SFI attempts to 'save' these communities are grounded not in planning or policy but in a kind of entrepreneurialism that locates the preferred mode of defense in the 'natural morality' of products like cheese, which is associated with the conditions of locale, the presence of communities willing and able to reproduce locale, and the historical processes of production acted out by those communities. This strategy is a paradox for Slow Food in that efforts to communicate the 'goodness' of local product rely on spatially extensive markets and memberships that support a defensive localism through consumption of what they read as (morally) good products. In its apparent defense of localism, Slow Food brings 'the local' into being and, much like the disciplinary writing of Geographical Indications (e.g., AOC), simultaneously 'displaces' it by situating the social relations of production in translocal circuits of regulation and consumption. It is reterritorializing the local in the space of its own regulatory operations, in the spaces of the institutions it is affiliated with, in its own entrepreneurial agency, and ultimately in the ideological domain of its loose network of parochial, yet transnational, members.
    Geoforum. 44.