work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

… not being able to consume back

11.06.2009 · Posted in Uncategorized

this is an illustration to be read in conjunction with the conclusion of my last post here.

i’ve just come across an old Mirror article which Bob Doherty and Sophi Tranchel highlight in their article “Radical Mainstreaming” (in Equal Opportunities International – you need a subscription to access this). the article is from 5th November 2002 on pages 28and 29 (unfortunately it’s no longer online – i’ve got it through the Exeter University subscription to Nexis)

the headline goes:

I Pick Cocoa Beans But I’ve Never Tasted… Chocolate

this is exactly the malaise I was highlighting in my talk (and in “Consuming the Campesino”. The reporter relishes in the discovery:

“She works for just 50p a day, picking the beans that make the beloved chocolate bars we all turn to for our comfort fixes. But cocoa farmer Dora and her friends have never even seen or tasted the delicious fruits of their labour. Until M came to the rescue…”

to rescue a member of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative that is! the Mirror is relentless not only in underlining the superiority of the unquestioned Northern chocolate eater – but also in the infantilisation of the cocoa producers:

“Suddenly, like a greedy child, Dora bitse off a huge eight-block chunk of the chocolate and falls back in her chair, laughing hysterically”

the whole affair could not be more Victorian…

which is the reason I think that it is essential that the producer/consumer dichotomy in fairtrade is overcome and the act of producion is recognised in a taken for granted, unquestioned ability to consume above and beyond the reproduction of labour power.

the reverse side of that medal would be, of course, that we consumers come under a bit more pressure to justify why we have that apparently self-evident birth right to “our comfort fixes” – what is our productive contribution?

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